FORT BENNING, Ga. (Nov. 26, 2014) -- Army National Guard Soldiers traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia, Nov. 20, 2014, to compete for a spot on one of the National Guard's three or four, two-man teams that will compete in the 2015 Best Ranger Competition.
"There are a lot of guys out there (who) want to compete, but this gives us an opportunity to get all of them together and handpick the best teams so we're representing the Guard as well as we can," said John Burns, assistant operations officer for the Army National Guard, or ARNG, Warrior Training Center.
Twelve Soldiers of the ARNG took part in the Best Ranger Competition Assessment and Selection. From those 12, nine were selected to return to Fort Benning Jan. 20, to begin the train-up in preparation for the competition. Maj. Jerry Mitchell, S-2 of the Warrior Training Center, said this year's candidates came from eight different states across the country.
Those selected include Capt. Robert Killian of the Colorado ARNG, Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Dornbusch and Master Sgt. Jason Broyles of the Texas ARNG, 1st Lt. Henry Hensley and 1st Lt. Sean Gramm of the Maryland ARNG, Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein and Sgt. 1st Class Troy Conrad of the Pennsylvania ARNG, Sgt. Thomas Carpenter of the New York ARNG and Capt. Travis Cornwall of the Georgia ARNG.
Last year, the ARNG had 22 Soldiers participate in the assessment for the nine slots in the 2014 Best Ranger Competition.
All of those 2014 ARNG teams finished in the top 20, and one team took second place, Mitchell said.
"We expected more based on the success we had last (competition)," said Capt. Chris Pegg, S-3 of the WTC.
This year's assessment consisted of a Ranger four-event physical fitness test including pushups, sit-ups, chin-ups, and a five-mile run; a tower assault course, an obstacle course, a six-mile individual equipment run, day and night land navigation and a 12-mile foot march, as well as several briefings on standards. The assessment was 11 and one-half hours.
Knowing the technical aspect of the competition can be taught, Burns said he chooses candidates mainly based on physical capabilities.
"My main approach coming into this assessment (was) picking that guy that has the endurance and the mental ability to go three days of competition," Burns said.
Capt. Robert Killian, B Company, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, said he came back for his fourth time, having competed in 2009, 2012 and 2014, when his team took second place.
"There are so many variables in this competition; it's hard. I think a lot of it is physical, but you do have to have that heart and that mental strength to push you through," Killian said.
This year, Killian said he will have a different partner, as his partner from the last two competitions is attending the Special Forces Course. He said keeping the same partner allowed them to know each other's weaknesses and strengths and how to overcome them.
"This year will be a challenging train-up because I'm going to have to do that all over again with someone new," Killian said. "I think that's going to be the focus this year. I know what I need to do, so now I have just got to get someone on board and try to hit it the same way (my former partner and I) did last year."
Killian is currently active duty for operational support, and said he just got back from Morocco. He has never had a break in military service and said he is constantly doing ironman triathlons, marathons, military orienteering, winter biathlons or deployments.
Another returning competitor is Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein. He and his partner placed 11th in the last competition. He also competed one time before the 2014 Best Ranger Competition, but he said he and his partner were the first to get cut at the end of day one.
"Finishing better last year was a big motivator," Friedlein said. "This year I'm hoping to do even better."
Friedlein said he focuses mainly on running workouts, rucking and staying positive to prepare for the competition.
"We come down for a two and a half month train-up, but really, you've got to train all year-round," he said.
Master Sgt. Jason Broyles, A Company, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry (Airborne), competed with Friedlein in the 2014 Best Ranger Competition, but said this year he feels comfortable having someone, Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Dornbusch, C Troop, 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment, from his own state training with him.
"We've been friends for years, just like a lot of these other guys, and we just want the National Guard to win," he said. "We have the capacity to do it, it is just a matter of actually executing."