Post Soldiers compete for top Ranger
April 12, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Four Soldiers from Fort Jackson have headed southwest to test the limits of their physical and mental endurance.
The Soldiers are taking part in the annual Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga., a three day, 60-hour challenge that includes a 25-mile road march in darkness, a casualty evacuation, parachute jump and a trek through the two miles of wooded, uneven terrain as part of the famous Darby Queen obstacle course.
Competing for this year's title are 50 two-man teams representing a variety of Army units, including tankers, infantrymen and Special Operations Soldiers. This year is the first time Fort Jackson has been represented at the competition, which begins Friday.
"The hard part was getting a slot," said Lt. Col. Eric Flesch, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment battalion commander. "Only 50 teams are allowed to compete each year, and Fort Jackson has never had a slot. It was very easy for me to call in some favors, and they allowed us to get both a primary team and a secondary team in the competition."
Competing are Sgt. 1st Class Jason Diaz and Staff Sgt. Bror McWhinney, of the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, and Majs. Jonas Anazagasty and Graham White of the 4th Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment.
"Diaz had competed before," Flesch said. "McWhinney had trained before but never competed, and they were our two best candidates."
Diaz' experience will give Fort Jackson a valuable edge in the competition, Flesch said.
"Everyone goes to win, but you compete to complete," he said. "Most teams never compete to completion because it's so difficult. I don't know of any team that's won without someone on the team who has competed before. So our chances are good. I feel pretty confident in our abilities to train up a team, but they always add surprise events."
"It was hard," Diaz said of his first competition in 2007. "It put my mental and physical capabilities to the test. It made me conduct tasks to physical exhaustion."
Diaz said his first competition gave him a better idea of what to expect "over the long haul."
"I think we've got a good chance," he said. "Hopefully we'll finish in the top 10. The field is very competitive."
"The Best Ranger Competition is the most physically and mentally challenging competition in the Department of the Defense, and to have not only one, but two teams competing this year for Fort Jackson is incredible," said Fort Jackson Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Benson. "Our Rangers will make us all proud as they compete flying the Fort Jackson banner for the first time in the history of the competition. We are excited and at the same time confident that our officers and NCOs will perform at the highest level, and look forward to the results of all the hard work put into their preparation for the event."
Anazagasty and White are part of the U.S. Army Student Detachment under the 4-10th. Although not technically assigned to Fort Jackson, both men fall under 4-10th command and asked the post to sponsor their participation in the competition.
"There are more than 2,000 Soldiers assigned to (the Student Detachment) around the world in different schools," said Lt. Col. Keith Purvis, 4-10th commander. "I'm glad that we could do it, and give these two very motivated Soldiers the opportunity to represent Fort Jackson. When all is said and done, this post is who they're representing."
Training and support for Anazagasty and White was managed by The Old Guard (3rd Infantry Regiment) in Washington, he said.
"(They) were very helpful in doing the pre-requisite assessments for Anazagasty and White, as well as offering to assist with their training," Purvis said. "The Old Guard also has teams this year, and due to the close proximity, having others to work with and push each other is part of the camaraderie."
There are a few obstacles standing in the way of victory for Fort Jackson, though. Because Fort Jackson's competitors come from "regular infantry units," they don't have access to some of the newer, more specialized equipment used in some of the challenges, Flesch said.
"We don't even have the equipment they compete with," he said. "But, Fort Bragg is only a two-and-a-half hour drive away, and the guys drove up there a couple of times to train on their ranges."
Founded in 1982, the Best Ranger Competition is an Army event and supported by the National Ranger Association, which helps to raise funds to support Ranger community activities like the Best Ranger Competition, the Ranger Hall of Fame and the Distinguished Member of the Brigade.