'Dragon' Soldiers compete in Best Ranger Competition
April 23, 2012
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FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 23, 2012) -- Two-man Ranger teams from across the Army, including three from the 1st Infantry Division, competed April 13-15, to find out who was the best.
Six Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, traveled to Fort Benning, Ga., for the 29th Annual David E. Granger Best Ranger Competition.
The competition placed extreme demands on the team's physical, mental and technical abilities as Rangers. Events were back-to-back and afforded the Rangers little rest or sleep. Teams didn't know the sequence in which they competed, keeping the Soldiers on their toes.
The competitors were tested on The Ranger Physical Readiness Assessment (pushups, chinups, vertical wall), Ranger first responder, water confidence course, unknown distance foot marches, map reading, call for fire, tri-tower challenge, weapons assembly, hand grenades, enter a building, clear a room, unknown distance orienteering course, helocast and swim, Darby Queen obstacle course and buddy run along. Even more events tested the Rangers' knowledge, physical strength and endurance as well as their ability to handle stress.
The competition began in 1982 after The Ranger Training Department was asked to design and conduct a "Ranger Olympics." It was designed to identify the best two-man Ranger team in the Army.
The first two Best Ranger Competitions only allowed teams from the three Ranger Department Camps to compete. The competition expanded in 1984, allowing Ranger teams from throughout the Army to compete.
The only requirement was that the teams be Ranger-qualified. Many commands began conducting preliminary competitions to ensure they sent the best of the best.
Teams were given numbers for the competition. Team 3 was composed of Capt. Shaun Pothin and 1st Lt. Joshua Gorcyzinski of 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment; Team 4, 1st Lt. Ryan Clay and 1st Lt. Jonathan Buckland, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment; and Team 5, 1st Lt. William Foulks, 2nd Bn., 16th Inf. Reg., and 1st Lt. Christopher Siok, 1st Bn., 28th Inf. Reg.
"The first event was a 17-mile foot movement," Pothin said. "We didn't get much rest after that. We went right into other events right after that. Having to continue with those miles on our legs was tough."
After the first day of competition, only Teams 3 and 5 remained. As the competition wore on, the fatigue and stress was clearly visible in all competitors as they willed themselves to continue contending for the right to be named the best Ranger team.
"The competition was rigorous," Foulks said. "We only got about seven hours of sleep throughout the three-day competition. The most difficult events of the competition were the unknown distance runs and ruck marches. We would start the events, but we didn't know how long or far we would be running or rucking."
As the competition neared its end, teams were faced with one final challenge: the buddy run. Teams sprinted toward the finish knowing that a hot meal, some well-deserved rest and their family members were waiting for them to arrive.
All the competitors received quick medical evaluations once they finished the run, and then sat together for a meal with their families.
It felt great to complete the competition, Foulks said.
"I didn't expect it to be as grueling as it was," he said. "The hardest part for me was always being on your feet with the weight of a 60-pound rucksack hour after hour, day after day. I really enjoyed the rock climbing. I've never done that before."
Fifty-one teams started the competition, but that number narrowed to 36 after the first day. The brigade's Team 3 finished in 14th and Team 5 finished in 28th place.
The "Dragon" Brigade Rangers recently returned from a month long rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in preparation for a deployment, and their train up for the competition was limited, said Command Sgt. Major Hutchison, the brigade's senior enlisted adviser.
"They went out there and represented the 1st Infantry Division as well as the 'Dragon' Brigade very well," Hutchison said. "It's a proud moment for the division and the brigade and we are proud that they represented us so well."
Although none of the 1st Infantry Divisions teams finished in the top, it was a true honor to compete for Best Ranger and complete the event, Hutchison added.
"We had lots of support from our commanders, family members, and Soldiers of our unit, so we are happy we can share this with them," Pothin said.