FORT BENNING, Ga., (April 20, 2016) -- Fifty teams of two paired up to test teamwork and Ranger skills, both mentally and physically, at the Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition April 15-17 on Fort Benning.
Of the 50 teams that started the competition, less than half made it to the finish line.
The three-day, 60-hour competition began at Camp Rogers with a mass start run in cold, rainy weather, followed by various events with unknown distances including a swim, distance ruck and obstacle course.
Other events included a litter carry, foot march, Spartan Race, day and night stakes, Darby Queen obstacle course, Helocast, combat water survival assessment, several other runs, a Ranger handbook exam and much more - all of which were completed with little or no sleep.
Fortunately, the sunshine brought warmer weather Sunday as the competition came to a close. The final buddy run was the last of the events.
Capt. Stephen Moreno, with C Company, 4th Ranger Training Battalion, was one of the organizers of the urban obstacle course portion of the competition. He said this part of the course was more about strength rather than endurance, which was a surprise to many competitors.
Moreno said the obstacle included carrying a skedco, with a dummy in rescue gear, which was just shy of 100 pounds. It had to be carried up and down into a tunnel, in a window and over a wall. Competitors also had to carry a 135-pound Atlas stone and then a 225-pound trap bar. Also included was a Humvee push, a tire flip and more.
"So even though it's only ... (20 to) 30 meters to carry an Atlas stone, or 100 feet to carry a trap bar, people are training for endurance, it adds a different type of stress on the body," Moreno said. "So it kind of shakes things up a little bit."
Moreno said the Atlas stone was probably the most challenging part of the urban obstacle course mentally. Each competitor had to go back and forth one time carrying it.
"You have to figure out how to carry this huge awkward stone," he said. "It's awkward to pick up ... it really makes it a lot more difficult."
Capt. Robert Killian, with Team 47 (National Guard) - the winner of the competition, said he had an advantage to carrying the Atlas stone because he had long arms, but he was initially nervous because he knew his partner, Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, was stronger than him and he was still struggling to carry it.
Killian said the night land navigation was the hardest event for him, even though his team won the Leonardi Award for night orienteering.
"It was an 11 and a half hour event," he said. "We covered probably like 25, 30 miles in rough terrain in the woods at night ... that was extremely difficult."
2nd Lt. Jeremy Dettmer and Sgt. 1st Class Eric Guevara, Team 10 (25th Infantry Division), said the Spartan Race was the most challenging, especially with no sleep and having to conquer the obstacles prior; but all their hard work paid off.
"The whole time you have those doubts - Did we work hard enough? Did we put in enough time?" Guevara said. "All those blood, sweat and tears that we had, all the training days that we put in, a few months, paid off, for sure ... couldn't be happier with the performance we both had."
Team 10 continued to discuss what it takes to be in the Best Ranger Competition.
"Never quit," Dettmer said. "If you quit on yourself you're going to quit on your partner."
"You have to be willing to accept the pain that comes with it because there is a cost, it's not going to be given to you by anyone. Everybody else trained in similar routines," Guevara added. "Nobody is just going to stand back and let you have it ...you have to fight for it and you have to do your best and just leave it all out there ... that's what makes it so painful and tough, but at the end of the day that's what makes it the Best Ranger Competition."
Guevara, 32, said he isn't the young one anymore, but it shows Soldiers that no matter how old you are, anyone can keep up if you are willing to fight for it. Dettmer and Guevara placed 12th overall.
Friedlein said it's important to stay focused and not worry about mistakes.
"Stay focused and ... prepare for the next event," he said. "If you made any mistakes just let them go."
The Best Ranger Competition ended with a supper where the winners and awards were announced and presented.