FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 12, 2018) -- Fifty teams of two Soldiers from across the U.S. Army and one team of two Coast Guardsmen gathered at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Georgia, ahead of the Best Ranger Competition, scheduled for April 13 through 15.

The competition, organized by the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, gives military service members who have earned the Ranger tab the chance to compete against each other through 17 planned competition events over the course of more than 54 hours.

The event is scheduled to begin early in the morning April 13 at Malvesti Field near Camp Rogers. After an opening ceremony, the ranger teams run a distance of which they are not yet aware. The run returns them to Malvesti Field, where they run the obstacle course there.

From there, the event does not stop. The competitors perform in events throughout the day. Through the first night the competitors march and perform night stakes. Saturday is yet another day of events leading to a night of orienteering. Sunday brings more events until the final buddy run that goes until mid-afternoon, when the competition concludes.

The schedule designates no sleep time and it tests the teams on their physical fitness, marksmanship and technical and tactical skills. Despite the demands of the competition, many competitors have returned after competing previously.

Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Rolfes, ARTB, has taken part in the competition five times before, and 2018 is his sixth. In addition to being in the competition, he has also been coaching his fellow competitors within the ARTB.

"With my guys, first of all I like to do the training, but I also want to do it with them so they can see an example of someone who has done it previously," said Rolfes. "From a coaching perspective I take a lot of pride in seeing them improve every single day. Ultimately, when the competition happens, that will be a very proud moment for me. It definitely will be a proud moment for them, being first-time competitors."

Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Jones and Staff Sgt. Scott Hodges, ARTB, are both new to the competition this year. Hodges says it's about the challenge.

"You always hear about people who want to go the extra mile, and Sergeant First Class Jones and I are willing to go the extra mile," said Hodges.

"I just want to continue to push myself, to get better," said Jones.

The ARTB hosts the annual event. This year is the competition's 35th iteration. It began in 1982, when it originally pitted buddy teams from each of three Ranger Department divisions against each other. Since then the contest expanded to include, as it does now, Ranger-qualified service members from across the world and the U.S. Armed Services.

Capt. Colin Grant, ARTB, along with teammate Sgt. 1st Class David Gil, said he wanted "to compete against the strongest and smartest guys in the Army."

"We're going to be experiencing anything from a mental drain just being up for 60 hours, just to the physical part where you're going to be covering anywhere from 70 to 80 miles at a time carrying heavy weight as well," said Grant.

Rolfes, in his capacity as coach for the other ARTB competitors, said the challenge of training the Soldiers was a matter of gradually working them up to competition fitness.

"We'll do a pretty progressive physical training to make sure we're not getting guys hurt, to make sure we're not adding so much physical stress all at once," said Rolfes. "And then I can't start seeing as individuals progress, how they're handling the training, I can start adding some more and some more, with my experience of what it takes to complete the Best Ranger Competition.

"They're all Ranger-qualified, which means they've all been in very uncomfortable situations," continued Rolfes. "But to do something like the Best Ranger Competition, you have the best in the Army here."

Ultimately, Rolfes believes winning is a matter of treating the competitors with respect.

"I keep reminding them that we're not just competing against us 12, we're competing against 100 of the best Soldiers in the Army," said Rolfes. "And we can't just assume we're better than them because we have to respect our opponents and assume they're working at least as hard as we are. So the mental aspect is to keep working as hard as we can."

More Best Ranger Competition stories will be published to Benning News on the Army News Service as the contest progresses April 13 through 15. To learn more, visit www.army.mil/benning.

For photos from the Best Ranger Competition, visit http://www.fortbenningphotos.com/Infantry-Brigades/Airborne-Ranger-Training-Briga/Ranger-School/Best-Ranger-Competition/2018-Best-Ranger.

For live updates from the competition, visit the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning on social media, like us at www.fb.com/fortbenningmcoe or follow us at https://twitter.com/fortbenning.