By Staff Sgt. Mark MirandaMay 5, 2014
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The best of the best were at Fort Benning, Ga., taking part in the 2014 Best Ranger Competition April 11-13, and two infantrymen represented 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, 7th Infantry Division.
Staff Sgt. William Haney and Sgt. Brendon Wellendorf, both assigned to C Company, 3rd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment formed a two-man "buddy team" to compete in the three-day event, finishing in seventh place out of 50 teams.
"We were at the National Training Center (Fort Irwin, Calif.) when we were told we got the 7th ID shot for the competition," said Haney. "Our unit was as supportive as they could be by being flexible with our schedule to give us time to prepare."
Established in 1982, the Best Ranger Competition has been compared to the Ironman and Eco-Challenge competitions. Competitors from throughout the armed services trained for months to be a part of the event.
"Our trainup involved a lot of ruck marching, running, swimming - we did a fair amount of climbing," said Haney, a Soldier from Key Largo, Fla. "We also spent a lot of time hitting the books too, studying Ranger history for at least an hour a night."
Participants are tested for their physical conditioning, Ranger skills and team strategies. By design, events scheduled back-to-back and around the clock for 60 hours, allowing little time for rest and meals. All events were timed, and competitors scored points for each completed event.
"There were some peak athletes there and out of 50 teams, only 26 finished," said Wellendorf, who grew up in Tucson, Ariz. "Mentally coming over that edge was, I think, what got a lot of people through, just sticking it out through the pain."
Event organizers predicted that over the course of the competition, each Ranger covered up to 75 miles with little or no sleep.
"Day two is when a lot of it catches up to you. Not sleeping, not eating very much - that's when it becomes mental, because you're doing all these hands-on tasks that really require you to pay attention," Haney said. "When you need to stick a needle in a patient and you haven't slept in a few days and you've got 40 miles on your feet - that really hurts."
They were tested on activities such as buddy runs, stress shooting, land navigation, and water survival, among others.
"We became extremely dependent on one another," Wellendorf said. "I think the reason we were successful is because his strengths compensated for my weaker areas, and vice versa. There were times I was hurting bad and he stepped up and took care of me, carried us through. Sometimes the tasks played to my strengths. You have to have a good partner that balances you."
It started with 50 teams, but by evening on the last day of the competition, the buddy team of 2nd Lt. Michael Rose and 2nd Lt. John Bergman finished at the top, after taking part in the 60-hour test of endurance.
"A lot of credit goes to our coach, Sgt. 1st Class Brian Rice, and we wouldn't have been as successful as we were - he was instrumental," Haney said.
"Unfortunately we went from fourth to seventh place, but we gave it our best. And we'll do better next year," Haney said.
With the competition behind them, Haney and Wellendorf will continue training with an upcoming rotation to the National Training Center, in support of 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team.