WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- To succeed sometimes means overcoming failure, said Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein.

Friedlein not only failed once, but twice before capturing the much-coveted title of Best Ranger for 2016. It was a two-person team competition so he split the honor this year with Capt. Robert Killian. The competition was April 15 to 17 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The win for both Soldiers was significant because this was the first two time National Guard Soldiers took the title since the competition started 33 years ago. Friedlein is in the Pennsylvania ARNG and Killian is in the Colorado ARNG.


Friedlein said his first two tries for Best Ranger took an enormous physical toll on his body. Training included seemingly endless work on the obstacle course, rappelling, airborne jumps and a variety of strength and endurance exercises.

But each time victory slipped through his grasp, Friedlein said it made him all the more determined to succeed, so he willed himself to go back for more punishment because winning was his focus.

While training for his third attempt, Friedlein also went to school to become a master fitness trainer, or MFT. He's been activated and now trains other master fitness trainers from all components at Fort Benning.

One of the blocks of MFT instruction is Performance Triad, which emphasizes the importance of sleep, activity and nutrition on performance and injury reduction.

While Friedlein said he was already getting a lot of activity, he paid closer attention to sleep and nutrition because of what he'd learned. As a result, he said his recovery times got shorter and he grew noticeably stronger, giving him what could have been the winning edge.

However, on April 1, just two weeks prior to the competition, something happened that could have been a distractor: Friedlein's wife Danielle gave birth to their first child, Leo.

Friedlein was there for the delivery, an excited dad, he said; but he quickly refocused on his goal of winning and not didn't allow himself to get too distracted by this blessed event.

There to see him take the championship was his mother, younger sister, wife and infant son.


Now that Friedlein won Best Ranger, he said his goal is focused totally on mentoring other Soldiers and helping them attain success, whether it be physically demanding responsibilities or leadership challenges.

Friedlein admitted that as a young man, he had no goals or ambitions, despite having a father who was an Air Force colonel and someone he looked up to. He said a friend of his was in the Army National Guard so at age 22 he sort of drifted into the Army to see what it was all about. That was in 2006.

The Army "sort of grew on me," he said. "I found everything about it appealing." From 2008 to 2009, he pulled duty in Iraq.

Friedlein said the Army is in now in his veins and he'll be in it for the long haul.

Asked about his favorite movie, Friedlein said it's probably "John Wick." He said the movie has some parallels to his own life of setting goals, overcoming adversity and attaining goals.

However, he said the action hero in the movie is out for revenge, so that's where the parallels end.

The other distinction is that Friedlein is a real-life action hero figure.

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