FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 15, 2011) -- Fifty teams kicked off the 28th annual Best Ranger Competition with a three-mile buddy run before dawn today.

The teams head into a foot movement and canoe race to round out the morning. Events are scheduled around the clock, with teams moving to the firing ranges in the afternoon to conduct machine gun and moving target events before heading out for day orienteering, fast-rope insertion and their first obstacle course. The day ends with teams navigating an approximately ten mile night orienteering course well into the early hours of Day 2.

"It's the greatest thing in the Army ... I look forward to it each year," said retired Col. Ralph Puckett, a former Ranger and two-time Distinguished Service Cross recipient who will be on the sidelines throughout most of the competition. "When you come out to Benning, you walk with giants. They're not rock stars, they're not sports heroes, they're not actors playing Soldiers. They're the real deal."

What started in 1982 as a friendly competition between the three battalions of the Ranger Training Brigade has morphed into a 60-hour marathon event testing the physical, mental and technical abilities of Ranger teams from across the Armed Forces.

"The competitors are equal to Olympic athletes in their level of physical and mental conditioning," said Col. John King, RTB commander.

The brigade runs the U.S. Army Ranger School, which all competitors are graduates of.
Contestants in this year's competition include returning champs, Master Sgt. Eric Turk, of the 2010 competition, and Sgt. Maj. Walter Zajkowski, who won in 2007.

Nearly all competitors are combat veterans and more than half are first-time contestants.

Historically, 60 percent of competitors don't finish the competition, with most being eliminated or withdrawing due to injury in the first 24 hours.

Follow the competition online through Fort Benning's Facebook page at or through the Twitter feed at

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