By Lori EganMay 15, 2009
Two Soldiers made history this year during the 26th annual LTG David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition May 8-10.
SFCs Blake Simms and Chad Stackpole, 4th Ranger Training Battalion Ranger instructors, won the overall competition, and also came in first on the road march that began Friday night and first in Saturday night's orienteering, earning both the Rippetoe and Leandri awards, respectively.
This is the first time one team won the three major awards.
The Best Ranger Competition challenges the technical, physical and mental abilities of two-man Ranger teams. Out of a starting field of 49 teams, only 24 finished the three-day event.
One team fell out during the first event, the buddy run at Camp Darby, which took the Rangers, wearing Army combat uniforms and individual body armor weighing more than 32 pounds, on a 4.8 mile run through rugged, unimproved terrain with a swamp and a chest-high creek, said SFC Troy Reed, a Ranger instructor with 5th Ranger Training Battalion in Dahlonega, Ga., who walked the course earlier in the week.
Team 8, SSGs Luke McDowell and Brandon Farmer, with the 75th Ranger Regiment, crossed the finish line first in the buddy run, followed by Team 22, MSGs Daniel Jenkins and Walter Zajkowski, with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and Team 46, CPT Samuel Linn and 1SG Robert Carter, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Simms and Stackpole came in fourth.
The second event was the Darby Queen, which is more than a mile long with 26 obstacles.
With names like easy balancer and island hopper, the obstacles are anything but, said CSM Matt Walker, U.S. Army Infantry School command sergeant major.
Three teams did not complete the Darby Queen, two teams were injured on the Island Hopper and one team didn't complete the Tough One.
"I always thought the Darby Queen was the toughest obstacle course in the Army," said SFC Jeffrey Vazzana, with the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C., who competed for the first time this year after supporting the competition for years when he was assigned to the Ranger Training Brigade. "It's even worse than Nasty Nick," he said, referring to the obstacle course for Special Forces Assessment and Selection at Fort Bragg.
After the Darby Queen, the remaining 45 teams had a series of marksmanship challenges to complete on the Malone Ranges before making their way through the woods to the field expedient litter carry at Coombs Range, where Andy and Lynn McGarry, from Savannah, Ga., waited to watch their son, SGT Grant McGarry, and his partner, SSG Timothy De Leon, administer first aid to a "casualty" whose wounds included double amputation and abdominal evisceration.
Lynn said her son and his teammate came in ninth in the buddy run and finished the Darby Queen in 20 minutes, 14 seconds.
"It's like Little League all over again," Andy said.
"Having someone here to cheer, and you hear that encouragement on mile 16 of the road march - it is a real morale boost," said SFC Michael Bigbey, who competed last year and plans to compete again next year. "The BRC gets in your blood," said the Dahlonega Ranger instructor who first competed in 1996.
Friday's last event was the road march - 18 miles and the Rangers carried rucksacks weighing about 65 pounds.
"Having the Darby Queen right after the buddy run was tough," Vazzana said. "(After) three hours into the road march, I was tapped out. I had three bags (of fluids) put into me."
Only 26 teams completed the road march. Simms and Stackpole finished it in four hours, 23 minutes.
"My boy is an animal!" said Barby Morris, Stackpole's mother, after learning he and Simms finished first in the road march. "He's rocking and rolling out there."
Which was the plan, Stackpole said Monday after the awards ceremony.
Stackpole said he and Simms wanted be one the top two teams during day one and win the road march.
"Historically, it's impossible to win every event. Our goal was to be in the top three to five percent for every single event," Stackpole said.
Simms, who competed in the last three competitions, was the strategic mastermind, and he broke every event down, Stackpole said.
During day two, most teams aren't competing anymore but just trying to finish, he said.
"Going into the night, we knew to win (orienteering) we had to stay out there all night," Stackpole said. "Five hours from finish time, we were at the farthest point you could be away from the finish point, and we ran for five hours just to make it back and made it back with eight minutes to spare."
Team 22 won Day Stakes on Todd Field, followed by Team 21. Team 7, SGTs Jesse Collins and Michael Malchow, 75th Ranger Regt., came in third.
At the start of day three, two more teams were eliminated from the competition during the orienteering event. When the helocast began at Hurley Hill, Simms and Stackpole were in first place with 1914 points, Jenkins and Zajkowski were in second with 1857 points, and Collins and Malchow were in third with 1637 points.
After the helocast was the water confidence test, and then the teams were flown to Rotary Park on the Chattahoochee River for the legacy event - canoeing for nearly nine miles to the pet cemetery on Main Post where the final event, another buddy run started and ended nearly four miles away at Lawson Army Airfield's Freedom Hall, a change from previous competitions.
"It's good to change it up," said SFC Corey Hawkins, 5th Ranger Training Battalion.
"A lot of these guys have competed before, and the changes keep it interesting," he said. "The Best Ranger Competition is three days of hell, and it's a big deal, a sense of accomplishment just to finish it."
The first team to cross the finish line was Team 46, Linn and Carter, with Stackpole and Simms, in second place.
"I am so proud of him!" Morris said. "This is a great Mother's Day."
1st - Team 21 - 2483 points - Simms and Stackpole
2nd - Team 22 - 2396 points - Zajkowski and Jenkins
3rd - Team 7 - 2165 points - Malchow and Collins
4th - Team 8 - 2151 points - Farmer and McDowell
5th - Team 31 - 2138 points - SSGs Michael Mutchie and Miguel Antia, 4th RTB
6th - Team 46 - 2094 points - Linn and Carter
7th - Team 23 - 2050 points - SGM Jesse Boettcher and MSG Eric J. Turk, USASOC
8th - Team 29 - 1976 points - SGT Jeremy Billing and CPL Troy Jenkins, 75th Ranger Regt.
9th - Team 43 - 1970 points - 1LTs Thomas Halverson and Michael Luth, 4th Brigade, 4th ID
10th - Team 27 - 1920 points - SSGs Benjamin Hunter and Ian Hunter, 75th Ranger Regt.
11th - Team 16 - 1904 points - SSGs Raylan Heck and Adam Angisanio, 6th RTB
12th - Team 33 - 1864 points - 1LT Chris Migliaro and SFC Jordan Martell, 4th Bde, 4th ID
13th - Team 24 - 1863 points - MAJs Jose Salinas and Edward Sedlock, 199th Infantry Bde.
14th - Team 17 - 1852 points - SGT Edward Killmeier and SPC Michael Pierce, 75th Ranger Regt.
15th - Team 20 - 1779 points - MAJ Pete Kranenburg and SFC John Przytulski, 1st SWTG
16th - Team 26 - 1735 points - CPTS Ronald Garberson and Anthony Aguilar, USASOC
17th - Team 49 - 1638 points - SFCs Mark Breyak and Steve Fields, SWC NCOA
18th - Team 5 - 1592 points - SFC Derek Wise and SGT David Paul, 25th ID
19th - Team 14 - 1554 points - CPTs Stephen Magennis and Todd Tompkins, 199th Inf. Bde.
20th - Team 45 - 1534 points - CPT Lloyd Wohlschlegel and 1LT Raymond Kuderka, 25th ID
21st - Team 38 - 1516 points - 1LTs Anthony Kivlehan and Alex Armstrong, 4th Bde, 4th ID
22nd - Team 35 - 1492 points - CPT David Cochrane and SSG Anthony Fuentes, 6th RTB
23rd - Team 28 - 1310 points - CPT Robert Killian and 1LT Grant Barge, 10th Mountain Div.
24th - Team 34 - 1297 points - 1LTs Lauren Gore and Benjamin Juvinall, 4th Bde., 1st ID
Teams representing the Ranger Training Brigade, 75th Ranger Regiment, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Infantry Division, 3rd Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 10th Mountain Division, 101st Airborne Division, Joint Readiness Training Center, Warrior Training Center, 199th Infantry Brigade, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, 3rd Infantry Regiment, Marine Corps, and two teams, deployed to Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division, vied for the title of best ranger.