FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 13, 2018) -- At the sound of the starter pistol, 51 teams of two Ranger-qualified service members started running, beginning the 35th David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition in the dark of the morning April 13 at Camp Rogers at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The teams represent organizations from across the Army and one sister service, and come from across the U.S. and the Republic of Korea. They are all there to be tested against each other in physical stamina, mental acumen, and technical skills during a three-day period with no scheduled sleep.

The teams include Soldiers from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th and 25th Infantry divisions; the 1st Cavalry Division; the 1st Armored Division; the 10th Mountain Division; the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions; 3rd Cavalry Regiment; the Airborne and Ranger Training Battalion; the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team; the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard); U.S. Army Alaska; U.S. Army Special Operations Command; the 75th Ranger Regiment; the 193rd and 198th Infantry brigades; the U.S. Military Academy; the U.S. Army CBRN School; the Cyber Protection Brigade; the Intelligence Center of Excellence; the Maneuver Center of Excellence; and the National Guard. New to the competition is a Ranger-qualified team from the U.S. Coast Guard's Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON).

"It is very hard to earn your Ranger tab," said Col. Douglas G. Vincent, commander of the ARTB. "The U.S. military, which is one percent of the U.S. population, one percent has Ranger tabs. So it's the one percent of the one percent, and these are the best of that one percent here at Fort Benning."

From October 2016 to September 2017, there was a 33.1 percent graduation rate at Ranger School. Of the 1,299 graduates, 504 passed the 61-day course straight through, while the other 795 had to recycle through at least one of the three phases that comprise the school course.

Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, fired the starter pistol. With that, the competitors were off on a five-mile course, the distance of which the competitors were not made aware of beforehand. The fastest team got 50 points, the second fastest 49, and so forth.

After finishing that race back at Camp Rogers, the teams took on the Malvesti Obstacle Course, where they climbed rope, scaled a vertical ladder, swung under a horizontal ladder, high-crawled through a water-filled pit, performed chin-ups and pushed a sled along a path track the length of the obstacle course they just completed. The fastest team again received 50 points, the second fastest received 49 points, and so forth.

The next event was the weight carry to Victory Pond. The slosh pipe is a tube filled with water, which the Ranger-qualified competitor must heft part of the way, putting it down to carry a litter the rest of the way to Victory Pond, where they begin the next event.

The Victory Pond swim is the next event, where the teams must swim across a section of Victory Pond to the beginning of the next event.

From Victory Pond, the teams make a 4.5-mile body armor run to Selby Combined Arms Combat Training Facility.

At the Selby CACTF, the teams have two minutes to reset from their body armor run to begin the Urban Obstacle Course. There, they carry a weighted medical splint through the window and out the door of one building, they go through tunnels into another building, carry a 150-pound medical splint over two walls, flip a tire, climb a caving ladder and finally secure a litter to a medical training dummy.

From Selby CACTF, the teams perform a fast rope insertion from a helicopter to fly to York Field. There they perform tire flips and move a sand-filled duffle and lifting stone as part of a timed event.

New this year, the teams will shoot at six firing ranges at main post to zero their weapons, qualify in four positions, perform an M4 stress shoot, perform a M240 timed stress shoot, engage five targets with an M320, and engage targets with an M249. The range events last into the early evening.

The next event, a foot march, takes them from main post to the night stakes events and takes them from their first day of the competition into the second. After the foot march, the field will thin down to 24 teams.

The top 24 teams will continue to compete in the competition, while the rest will have a year to prepare for the 36th Best Ranger Competition.

As to the value of the competition, given the athleticism and mental acumen of the competitors, Vincent said the competitors for military service members serve as an ideal to aspire to, and for the nation as an example of military strength.

"So it inspires everyone to be a little bit better," said Vincent. "These are the people defending your nation, these are the people that are defending the Constitution of the United States. It's people with this physical and mental capability."

Retired Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr. is the namesake of the competition. His Army career spanned from 1942 to 1984, during which time he served in World War II, the Korea War, and the Vietnam War. He also served as the director of the Ranger Department.

Point results will be posted April 13 on Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning's news page and to MCoE and Fort Benning social media.

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.