By Mr. Stephen Standifird (Leonard Wood)April 27, 2017
Long before they crossed the finish line after three days of grueling competition -- even before they stepped off on the first event -- the team representing the Chemical Corps and Fort Leonard Wood felt they had to prove themselves.
"We believed it, but nobody else truly believed we could," said 1st Lt. Andy Harvey, half of the 3rd Chemical Brigade team that competed in the David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition April 7 through 9 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Harvey and Capt. Tim Cox came together as a team in January to train for the Best Ranger Competition.
Cox recalled one training session early on where the team conducted a ruck march on treadmills because the weather outside was below freezing. Day after day, week after week, the team dug deep to train for the competition, giving up time with Family to prove they deserved their spot in one of the Army's most elite competitions.
"We paid the price (in training) together to be ready for this competition," Harvey said.
Their intense focus on training propelled the team to not only finish, but meet their personal goal of ending in the top 10. Cox and Harvey finished sixth overall, a feat that surprised a lot of people within the Ranger and infantry communities, Cox said.
"The field was just stacked," Cox said, referring to the numerous winners and top 5 finishers over the last eight years of competition, including the 2014 and 2016 winners. "We were the underdogs of the competition, and that was the way we liked it."
Their success even caught the attention of multiple high-ranking officials who sought out the Families of Cox and Harvey to get more information about the team who was giving infantry Soldiers a run for their money.
"One of the things Brig. Gen. Peter Jones (U.S. Army Infantry School commandant) came up to us and said was 'what you guys have done here in this competition is you've proved to everybody you don't have to be infantry to do this competition, you have to be a Ranger,'" Cox said.
The three-day competition started early in the morning on day one with a buddy run, swim, a ruck march, a long-distance obstacle course, another run, and an urban obstacle course. The first day, Cox said, is designed to weed out the weak.
"Andy and I knew if we survived day one and were competitive, we would be fine for the competition," he said.
With an early setback of cramps, the team finished the first day of events in eighth.
"I went up to see the board as it had all the teams in order and I didn't want to disappoint myself, so I started at the bottom and scrolled up," Cox said. "I had to go back and verify twice that my eyes weren't playing tricks on me."
Overnight, the team completed the night ruck march and night stakes and started day two in sixth place. After completing the surprise event, a Spartan Race, in fifth place, Cox and Harvey used the boost to motivate them through the rest of the competition.
"We decided to put the hammer down and go get it," Cox said.
Their finish in the top 10 was due to the training plan initiated by their coach, Maj. Peter Zappola, which helped them to be one of the most physically prepared teams at the competition, Harvey said.
"Once the competition got going, it was apparent that Tim and Andy were in excellent physical condition -- as good as anyone there," he said. "I thought the technical skills would be where we would drop, but when they outperformed almost everyone in those events, it was clear we had a real chance of a very strong finish."
Cox acknowledged the technical skills taught and reinforced by various organizations, including Sapper Leader Course, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and various drill sergeants from 3rd Chem. Bde., were helpful before the competition.
"We are very thankful we had all of those people because they helped us a lot," he said.
"Thank you to the whole team at Fort Leonard Wood for helping us," Harvey added.
In the end, the chemical officers did something few believed they could. They represented their unit, themselves, and the Army with pride in a challenging competiion, forging a memory that will last a lifetime.
"Crossing the finish line, knowing we put our best foot forward, gave everything we had and accomplished our goal, was one of the most rewarding memories I have in the military," Cox said. "I will remember it and cherish it for years to come."