LEEDS, N.Y.-In 2013 Sgt. Thomas Carpenter , the admin and supply sergeant for the New York Army National Guard's Company C , 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry qualified as a Ranger.
In 2015 the two-tour Afghan veteran from Holland Patent, N.Y., is hoping he'll be one of six Army National Guard Soldiers competing to be the best Ranger in the Army.
"It has always been a dream of mine," Carpenter said. "It has always been at the top of the challenges, a super high goal and I always set my expectations high."
Carpenter was one of 12 Army National Guard Soldiers who took part in a Best Ranger Competition Assessment and Selection event conducted by the Army National Guard's Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning, Georgia in November.
Carpenter came out of the day-long assessment on Nov. 20 as one of nine Army National Guard officers and NCOs vying to be one of six Soldiers competing in three Army National Guard two-man teams when the annual best Ranger event kicks off on April 10, 2015.
In January Carpenter and the other eight Soldiers report back to Fort Benning to begin training as a group for the competition. If he can't make one of the three primary teams he hopes to be on the Army Guard's backup team, Carpenter said.
The Best Ranger Competition is a 60-hour non-stop event designed to challenge the fitness and skills of the toughest Soldiers. Events the two-man teams are faced with can include a 20 mile march, a 4.7 mile rucksack run, tests of rifle and pistol marksmanship, climbing, weapons assembly and disassembly, swimming, obstacle course, and a bayonet course.
The average competitor, according to the Ranger Challenge website is 28 years old, 5 foot, 10 inches tall, weighs around 165 pounds, and is in excellent shape.
Competitors are required to be airborne qualified. Carpenter is not, but if he gets selected for the team, he'll be sent to airborne school.
The day-long assessment was designed to test the physical ability of the potential competitors, according to John Burns the assistant operations officer for the Warrior Training Center.
The 12 potential Best Ranger competitors were tested on their ability to run five miles, pump out push-ups, sit-ups and chin-ups, conduct a six-mile equipment run, go through a 12-mile foot march, pass through a tower assault course, an obstacle course, and pass day and night land navigation course, as well as stay alert for briefings. The assessment lasted 11 and a half hours.
"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 told the Fort Benning newspaper Bayonet & Saber.
Carpenter finished number eight in the qualification list.
That felt good, Carpenter said, but it also shows that he has a lot of work to do if he is going to be one of six National Guard Soldiers competing in April.
'I thought I was prepared and it was an eye-opener," Carpenter said.
For example, one of the competitors, Captain Robert Killian from Colorado, ran his five miles in under 30 minutes, and all of the others are extreme athletes.
"It was a just a little taste of what is to come," Carpenter said, "I have a whole lot of work cut out for me. Half the other dudes have actually competed before. They know what to expect and how to prepare."
Fortunately his wife Corinne, who has been with him through his combat deployments with the 2nd Squadron 101st Cavalry and the 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry, is very supportive and ready for him to be gone for another three months as he trains up, Carpenter said.
He also appreciates the battalion leadership allowing him to leave his job at the Leeds Armory for three months to follow his dream of competing in the Best Ranger event, Carpenter said.
Carpenter credits his former platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Richardson - now an operations NCO on the 27th Brigade Combat Team staff-with pushing him to go to Ranger School and then compete in the Best Ranger Competition.
Richardson competed in 1999 and he talked up the program a lot while they were serving in the 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry Scout Platoon, Carpenter said.
Just competing in the Best Ranger competition was a "huge experience" that made him a better Soldiers and NCO, Richardson said. Carpenter, who served as his driver in Afghanistan, is the kind of young Soldier who can handle that experience and benefit from it, Richardson said.
"He is young and he has the heart to go out there and compete," Richardson said.
Carpenter is also the kind of young non-commissioned officer who will benefit from the experience and make sure he passes that knowledge onto other Soldiers, said Sgt. Major Robert Marshall, the operations NCO and acting command sergeant major for the 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry.
"I get very frustrated with Soldiers and leaders who go to Air Assault School or another specialist course and they never teach a class," Marshall said. "It is not about the individual's achievement it is about the organizational growth based on that individual achievement," he added.
During the 2nd Battalion 108th's 2012 deployment to Afghanistan, Carpenter took part in a pre-Ranger School program the battalion developed. This positioned him to go to Ranger School in June 2013, Marshall said.
While Carpenter faces a lot of stiff competition, his drive to succeed is intense, Marshall said.
"He is a very squared away troop, Marshall said. "He's got the motivation and the intestinal fortitude to do great things in this competition, "he added.