During the last four months, 1st Lt. Zachary Hobson and 1st Lt. David Stanley delicately balanced a regimen of long-distance running, roughly 24 miles of ruck marching per week, intense gym workouts and countless hours spent honing their Soldier skills in the hopes of proving that they are the best Rangers the Army has to offer.
These Soldiers will soon put their training to the test during the Army’s 37th Annual Best Ranger Competition slated to take place at Fort Benning, Georgia, April 16-18. No matter the outcome of the competition, the two lieutenants have one silver lining in mind.
“I’m excited to just take more than one day off of running,” joked Hobson, a West Point graduate and Tampa, Florida, native who currently serves as a mortar platoon leader.
The thought of finishing the competition and finally taking a needed day off keeps the Rangers putting one foot in front of the other each time they push themselves through a 12, 14, or 20-mile ruck march.
“I'm excited to put the rucksack down for a few months and give my back and knees a break,” Hobson continued. “That's the biggest thing we're excited for.”
Hobson and Stanley both currently serve with 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, which is presently deployed to South Korea. Both came back to the United States only recently in order to train for, and take part in, the Best Ranger Competition.
Every year, Rangers from across the Army compete in the grueling three-day competition. Completing task after task for 61 continuous hours and operating on little sleep, only one two-man team walks away with the title of Best Ranger. The event started in 1982, and each year the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade honors Lieutenant General David E. Grange Jr. by hosting the competition.
From helicopter jumps, night-time navigation, marksmanship, over 20 miles of ruck marches and many more assessments, Rangers train for months leading up to the competition each year to hone their skills.
While only one team can take home the title, all the teams serve as an example for the Soldiers in their units back home.
“Part of being a Ranger means setting an example every single day,” said Hobson. “We want to show our Soldiers that even though you are Ranger qualified, you still have to push yourself.”
Hobson said his unit’s senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall, coordinated a Best Ranger Competition tryout for 1st ABCT’s Ranger-qualified Soldiers deployed in South Korea. Two teams were formed from the results of the tryout and were sent to Georgia for further training.
“He's kind of been our guide and our mentor as we've been trying to prepare,” said Hobson, speaking of Hall.
With the competition just around the corner, the two Rangers are eager to put their skills to the test against their peers.
“We're there to win,” said Stanley, a Syracuse University graduate and Boston native serving as a tank company executive officer. “We wouldn't go and compete if we didn’t think we could be competitive to win. We're there to try our absolute hardest.”
Stanley said that while training, he and Hobson took advice from Hall and Maj. Jonathan Rembetsy, a battalion executive officer in their brigade. He said both have been guiding figures, with Rembetsy providing his training regime from when he competed for the Best Ranger Competition two years ago, and Hall giving insight from when helped run the competition as a first sergeant in Ranger Training Brigade in years past.
Teamwork has been at the forefront for both Rangers as they pushed themselves for this upcoming competition.
“Every single training we run shoulder-to-shoulder and we ruck right next to each other,” said Hobson. “I’ve spent more time with him than anyone else over the last four months.”
Though Hobson and Stanley, due to their deployment to Korea, missed the opportunity to train at Fort Benning with the other competitors, both are confident in the training plan they used at Fort Stewart.
“We're not gonna make any excuses,” said Hobson. “We've worked just as hard as all the other teams. If not, we're trying to work harder.”
For each event of the competition, teams accumulate points based on their performance with the hope that they meet the cut for the next day. Hobson said he and Stanley aim to make each cut every day of the competition.
“I’m proud to know these Rangers and serve alongside them,” said Hall. “Each of them are exceptional leaders who strive everyday for excellence. They live to compete and set the ultimate example for their Soldiers.”
For more information on the Best Ranger Competition, visit https://www.army.mil/ranger/bestranger.html