EASTON — A member of the Maryland National Guard from Easton is preparing to compete for the title of “Soldier of the Year” during a national-level competition next week.
Spc. Daniel Reading, an infantryman with the Delta Company of the 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry Regiment, will represent his home state at the 2022 Army National Guard Best Warrior competition on July 24-29 in Smyrna, Tennessee.
Reading will compete against other top soldiers from across the 54 states and U.S. territories after winning at the regional competition in May held at Camp Dawson, West Virginia.
The Guard members at these events compete in both basic and advanced soldier skills that measures their mental and physical aptitude and toughness. Reading has been training physically and mentally to prepare for the national competition.
The competition includes physical events and other tests of basic soldier ability; possibly including weapons maintenance, combat lifesaving, marksmanship and land navigation.
Reading, a Kent Island native who now resides in Easton, attended Dematha Catholic High School where he competed in baseball, swimming and rugby. He works full-time as a security patrol officer for an aerospace and defense contractor when not serving in the Maryland Guard.
After enlisting, his company in basic training was stricken with COVID-19 at the height of the pandemic in 2020, pushing their graduation back a month.
Reading arrived at the Easton Guard unit just as the soldiers were mobilizing for security duty at the U.S. Capitol in Jan. 2021. He provided security at the Capitol for the presidential inauguration and worked at the COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Six Flags in Bowie.
Earlier this year, he supported his community by serving at a COVID-19 testing site in Baltimore.
Reading was interviewed Tuesday while training at the armory in Easton, where he practiced timed disassembling and reassembling of the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher and the M-240L machine gun.
“It’s been really fun ... to get that sense of challenge,” Reading said. “It hasn’t been easy, a lot of good competition, but that’s what makes it great. It’s what makes the guy next to you better, which makes the whole organization better.”
Reading said he welcomes the professional development that training for and competing in the challenge affords him, the preparation for the traditional warfighting soldier skill set he may one day be called upon to employ.
Reading also welcomes the difficulty of the event, stating it fulfills “the drive to compete, the drive to meet a challenge head on and try to be better than everybody else, and at the same time helping all of the other competitors.”
Reading said in multiple instances competitors help each other while still vying for victory.
“It’s that sense of camaraderie with that sense of competition,” he said.
As the regional winner, Reading will face eight other fellow regional winners. He is sticking to his regimen.
“A lot of running, a lot of PT and a lot of muscle building (and) lifting,” he said. “I try to get out and ruck as much as I can, because if you can do that for a long time, you can do anything.
“You’ve got to hold yourself accountable,” he said of the daily discipline of preparation and tenacity needed in the heat of the grueling competition. “Sometimes you’ve got to turn your brain off and just be like, ‘All right, here I am, it can’t get any worse than right now,’” Reading said with a laugh.
Reading said he became an infantryman because was told the job was physically demanding and good for building up leadership. He is currently focused on training and the upcoming competition, but Reading said he would eventually like to be an infantry officer.
Mike Detmer is a staff writer for the Star Democrat based in Maryland. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.