FORT DRUM, Oct. 15, 2015) -- Ranger-qualified Soldiers from throughout the 10th Mountain Division (LI) gathered Oct. 6 at Fort Drum's Light Fighters School to take on the first of several assessments in hopes of being selected to represent the division during next year's Army Best Ranger Competition.

"They need to be experts in basically any task related to combat arms," said Capt. Travis Boudreau, commander of Fort Drum's Light Fighters School. "It's an all-encompassing task list that we're going to have them train on."

Before participating in the assessment, candidates had their own techniques to prepare for the challenges they would have to overcome.

"We've been doing the (Mountain Athlete Warrior physical training) and have been doing other activities every other weekend that last about five to six hours on Saturdays on and off for the past month and a half," said 1st Lt. Travis Swan, executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), and a candidate for the assessment.

With a 4 a.m. report time, candidates showed up eager and prepared to complete each of the challenges that awaited them over the next 24 hours.

"I expected to be able to push myself to the absolute limit for the first time in a long time," Swan said. "I knew coming into this it was all about strength management and not about exerting all your energy on just one event."

This was the first of multiple assessments scheduled for the 18 candidates, with the next one being in November.

"I expect them to put forth their best individual efforts so that we can establish a baseline and structure their individual training plans based on their own strengths and weaknesses," Boudreau added. "Every single one of these guys is going to be allowed to continue to train on with us."
The assessment consisted of multiple events to prepare the candidates for what they would face if they are selected to participate in the Army-level competition.

After the reception process, the candidates took on the Ranger Physical Fitness Test consisting of pushups, situps, pullups and a five-mile run.

Immediately afterward, they started the land navigation portion of their day where they had to find three out of three points to be considered successful.

Their next challenge was to waterproof their equipment and use it to swim 50 meters. Then they had to drop their packs on shore and jump back in the cold water in Remington Pond and swim 300 meters where they were to get out of the water and run back to their gear.

From there, candidates ruck marched to the Light Fighters School and negotiated the obstacle course.

When candidates were finished, they tried their hands on properly conducting two rappels from the Air Assault School tower, followed by a ruck march to a Fort Drum training area to proficiently fire multiple weapons systems.

Later that evening, candidates completed another land navigation course, but this time in the hours of darkness. With a minimum amount of sleep, they finished the assessment the next morning with Mountain Athlete Warrior physical training consisting of a two-mile run, a tire flip, a sked drag, a rope climb and one-mile run.

As the candidates concluded the training, they had their minds set on sustaining their strengths and improving on their weak points before the next assessment.

"I think this assessment has shown me that I need to get back to the basics," Swan said. "A lot of the time we master the basics early in our career and then we forget about them later on."

He added that he will focus on "getting back to the books, maybe getting out here and doing land nav once a week again, going over knots -- basic skill-level-one Soldier tasks."

Leaders in charge of the assessment plan to increase the intensity of the training each time until the candidates are fully ready to take on the competition at the Army level.

"We want more people participating," Boudreau said. "We're still open to taking people in, but they have to be ready to come on and train, and we will assess them again in November. The division commander wants us assessing over 40 Soldiers and he wants us training over 20."
Once the candidates are chosen, they will have from January until April to train at Fort Polk, La., before the Army's Best Ranger Competition.

"We're not going to select the team members that will go down to Fort Polk until the end of November," Boudreau said. "Each of these guys will have the opportunity to develop, and based on the amount of effort they put into that and based on what their scores end up being in that final assessment will determine who moves on."