FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 13, 2012) -- Fifty two-man teams began competing in the 29th Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition April 13.

After a 6 a.m. opening ceremony, teams completed a three-mile buddy run followed by a 15-mile ruck march, the Darby Queen obstacle course, a fast rope insertion/extraction system, an urban obstacle course and a day orienteering course.

The Darby Queen has 26 obstacles set over a mile of wooded and uneven terrain.

"The Queen builds confidence and tests your ability to commit…you are going to face a lot of tough challenges," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Dean, Ranger Training Brigade.

"Having to do this right after a 15-mile road march really tests the limits of what a body can handle," Dean said.

Team 22, Capt. Erik Edstrom and Staff Sgt. Sean McApline from the 3rd Infantry Regiment, was the first to finish the 15-mile ruck march. Even though his muscles locked up during the Darby obstacle course, Edstrom said he was happy his team completed each event on the course with a "go" on the first try and he felt like they were able to pull each other through the Darby Queen when they were at their weakest.

"It wasn't necessarily the fastest time over the obstacles, but we didn't have any 'no-gos,'" Edstrom said. "I'll take it."

Team 43's Sgt. 1st Class Vince Castellanos, from the 4th Ranger Training Battalion, said he was glad the Darby Queen event was over and he was looking forward to the urban obstacle course. Although stationed at Fort Benning, Castellanos doesn't feel his team had an advantage over the rest of the buddy teams.

"Everyone can know all of the events, but if you don't have the legs and upper body strength to get you there, you won't make it," Castellanos said.

During the Darby Queen, two teams were eliminated from the competition due to injury. Leading the field of competitors after the obstacle course were team 49 with Capt. Robert Killian and 1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar from the Army National Guard, team 22 with Capt. Erik Edstrom and Staff Sgt. Sean McApline from the 3rd Infantry Regiment, and team 30 with Master Sgt. Joshua King and Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jackson from the 5th Special Forces Group.

Following the Darby Queen obstacle course, teams fast-roped into the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility at Selby Range where they showed off their urban tactical maneuvering, room-clearing and casualty extraction skills.

After navigating on foot from Selby Range to Malone Range, the teams shot various weapons at moving and stationary targets.

Tonight, the teams will complete a foot march with an unknown distance. The foot march continues until early morning. The events will then continue with the Day Stakes on Todd Field.

Named after Lieutenant General David E. Grange, Jr., a previous Ranger Instructor, Ranger Department Director, and Commanding General of Fort Benning, the competition places extreme demands on the teams' physical, and technical abilities in order to recognize which team is truly the best Ranger. Since it began in 1982, the competition has been cancelled twice due to Operation Desert Shield / Storm in 1991 and Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Page last updated Fri April 13th, 2012 at 00:00