Cpl. Dakoatah Miller had to deal with temperatures in the 90s and even past 100 while running, firing weapons at targets and leading patrols during his week at the Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition, he said Friday.
That was nothing compared to the elevation — 7,133 feet, according to maplogs.com, more than a mile higher than Cortland.
“It’s a lot harder to catch your breath,” he said.
Miller, a SUNY Cortland student and Cortlandville resident, returned from the games at Camp Navajo in Bellemont, Arizona, was the second-place finisher in the competition July 19 to 23.
The soldier assigned to the New York Army National Guard 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment based in Utica, had to compete in terrain navigation, firing lanes, swimming and written exams.
The 15.8-mile ruck stuck out — competitors had to travel the distance as fast as they could with gear, Miller said.
Additionally, Miller was tested on his leadership skills by leading military police on a patrol and watched as Miller reacted to direct and indirect fire confrontations.
“I really enjoyed it,” Miller said. “Everyone had high morale.”
Training for the national event which had him compete against 12 other Army National Guard soldiers from across the country — included daily physical and mental training, including studying about Army processes and the history of the Army.
His first competition, with events similar to what he endured in Arizona, was in October in Geneseo before participating in other events in Cortland, in Westchester County and New Jersey.
“Doing these competitions was kind of a way to make a name for myself,” he said. ”People would know I’m worth investing in.”
Miller, who arrived home July 25, said the competition helped strengthen him mentally.
“It trains you to have the mental fortitude to keep driving, keep moving forward,” he said.
During his time training and competing leading up to the national competition, Miller had to balance studying for courses at SUNY Cortland, where he is an exercise science major. This meant taking courses remotely and adjusting his schedule to fit his training needs, which Miller said his professors accommodated.
“We’re very excited for him and his success,” said Erik Bitterbaum, the president of SUNY Cortland.
Since returning, Miller has been taking time to rest and recuperate.
While he is enrolled for the fall at SUNY Cortland, Miller said those plans might have to change because he is scheduled to attend an Army National Guard pre-screening for Ranger School in October. If he is successful in the screening, Miller said he will be at Ranger School for two months, which would help him achieve his goal of going into the Army Special Operations, he said.
Bitterbaum won’t mind.
“Whatever our students’ ambitions or dreams are, we want our students to fulfill them,” he said.