<b> FORT BENNING, Ga. </b> - Four Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, took it upon themselves to represent their battalion, brigade and division in the 26th Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, May 8.

"I don't think the division has had a team compete the last ten years," said Sgt. 1st Class Oracio Pena, a platoon sergeant in Company B, 1/15 Inf. Regt. "So it was important for us to be there. Looking at 1/15, we may have the most Ranger-tabbed Soldiers in any unit in the Army, outside the Ranger Battalions and soft-skilled units. Why wouldn't we compete'"

Sergeant First Class Pena and his partner, Staff Sgt. Matthew Delisle, a platoon sergeant in Company A, joined 1st Sgt. Jeremiah Gann, Company E, and his partner,1st Lt. James Lostroscio, a platoon leader in E Co., and began training for the event on their free time, just three weeks before the competition started.

"Most of the competing team's units give their teams weeks to prepare for the event, but our guys had to do it on their own time," said Capt. Jason McCambridge, the commander of A Co. "They are all senior leaders, so we needed them to train on their off time, after they got off work. It says a lot about all of them, that they would use their free time to better themselves and set the example for our Soldiers."

Hammer Focus, the 3rd HBCT's largest field training exercise at Fort Benning, began about two weeks before the competition, so finding time to train was difficult.

"I had a platoon to maintain and get ready for combat," said Sgt. 1st Class Pena. "That always has to be the first priority. Sure, I wish we would have had more time to get ready, but we have to keep our priorities straight."

Sergeant 1st Class Gann said that the way he trains his Soldiers actually helped him prepare.
"The basic Ranger stakes are everyday tasks for us," he said. "By getting my Soldiers ready, I was getting ready for this. Treating a casualty, demolitions, breaking down weapons... we do those things every day."

On the day of the competition, Soldiers from 1/15 Inf. Regt. were out in force to support and encourage their fellow Dragon Soldiers.

"It was great," said Sgt. 1st Class Pena. "To have all those guys come out, some of them on their day off, and cheer us on felt good."

As the two teams competed, their fellow 1/15 Inf. Regt. Soldiers were there to keep them motivated.

"Things like that build esprit de corps," said Capt. McCambridge. "The battalion is a tight unit and things like that bring us closer together. I know I was inspired by it. Sergeant Major (Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Moore, 1/15 Inf. Regt.) and I are already making plans to compete in the next competition."

First Lieutenant Lostroscio said that inspiring other Soldiers to compete was a big factor in his decision to participate.

"Competitions like Best Ranger, and schools like Sapper and Path Finder, are great ways to inspire new Soldiers," he said. "Things like that show up a lot when conducting training. Hopefully, by doing this, we can start a trend. We aren't just competing for 1/15; we are representing the brigade and the division as a whole."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16