By Mr. Stephen Standifird (Leonard Wood)March 22, 2017
Through sweat, pain and hundreds of miles of running and ruck marching, two of Fort Leonard Wood's own are preparing to take on the challenge of the David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition April 7 through 9 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Capt. Tim Cox and 1st Lt. Andy Harvey will represent the U.S. Army Chemical Corps and Fort Leonard Wood in the 34th anniversary of the competition.
Preparation for the competition started with an intense training plan, Cox, a small group leader with Officer Training Department, 3rd Chemical Brigade, said. Their individual strength and conditioning training began in August while they were still attached to a unit, as planned by their coach, Maj. Peter Zappola.
Training included multiple workouts a day as part of a program devised around ensuring they are well-rounded, Zappola said.
Team training started in January, when they were removed from their units to train full-time for the competition. It was in January when their goals became focused on Soldier-specific tasks they will see at the competition, such as obstacle course runs, land navigation, urban assault course and a lot of ruck marching.
"(Training is) not just running and not just rucking," Zappola said. "It includes all kinds of crazy things that would allow them to be fit across all domains. It is a 'sweat in training saves blood in combat' kind of approach."
Zappola devised their training schedule to include multiple workouts a day with high-intensity, long- and short-duration training to target different muscle groups.
"They have worked really hard and put a lot of effort in," Zappola said. "It was very, very physically demanding. Because of the hard work they put in, I think they are in a good position right now."
Cox and Harvey are self-proclaimed "country boys" who enjoy the outdoors.
"A lot of the stuff we are doing, I enjoy," Harvey, a company executive officer with 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, said. "For me, it's been nothing but fun."
Both officers were collegiate athletes, Cox in basketball and track and Harvey in baseball, and both are built from the same mold.
"Physically we are very similar on a lot of things," Harvey, a Denver, Colorado native, said. "On a road march, we noticed our stride is the same, so we were literally walking in step on a ruck march."
Cox, who competed in 2011 and finished 18th overall, calls Harvey the perfect teammate.
"He is a monster physically, and that is going to help us out in this competition," Cox, a Topeka, Kansas, native, said.
Speaking from experience, Cox said the competition requires the team to be able to work together in times of fatigue and low motivation.
"You and your partner are both going to hit low points, hopefully at different times," he said. "We are going to rely on each other to push through the pain together to make it through this."
Being one of the first teams in history to represent the Chemical Corps, Fort Leonard Wood and the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Best Ranger provides added pressure to the team, Harvey said.
The competition is regularly dominated by the maneuver community, but that hasn't altered what Cox and Harvey want to accomplish.
The team has set a personal goal of finishing in the top 10, but the fact they are going to Fort Benning to compete makes them a success.
"Just to start is a success, finishing is an even greater success, but we do have that individual goal," Harvey said.
"Our purpose for competing is to let the maneuver community know we are here to support them, and we can go pound for pound; we can go the distance with them," Cox said. "A lot of people talk about the Best Ranger Competition, and even the Best Sapper Competition, and a lot of people are too afraid to try. We got off the bench and into the game."
Harvey added that they were "excited about the opportunity to play and go at it. Go as hard as we can, for as long as we can, and see where the dice fall after that."
Best Ranger started in 1982 to honor Lt. Gen. David Grange Jr., a former Ranger Department director. The competition has evolved over the years to determine what organizers call the "best two-man team from the entire Armed Forces."