FORT BENNING, Ga. – Four separate military competitions are set to kick off April 10 on the installation for Infantry Week 2023. Top competitors from around the U.S. Army, its sister services, and ally and partner nations will determine who is the best of the best in their respective fields.
Events will demonstrate skills of the maneuver force and include the Lacerda All-Army Combatives Championship, Best Mortar Competition, International Sniper Competition, and the Best Ranger Competition.
The competitions consist of challenging and realistic scenarios that test Soldiers’ professional development and provide valuable lessons, said Col. Jimmy Hathaway, 198th Infantry Brigade commander.
“The feedback from these competitions can help military leaders identify areas for improvement in training and equipment and (inform) necessary adjustments to training plans,” he said.
Col. Ryan Kranc, 316th Cavalry Brigade commander, added that the competitions provide a venue “where our best compete and help frame future training, so we are producing the most lethal and ready Soldiers on the planet.”
The week’s events “provide an opportunity for Soldiers to (display) their skills, dedication, and teamwork in a world-class competition,” said Col. Christopher Hammonds, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade commander. “The competitions help to build esprit de corps and foster a sense of pride and accomplishment among competitors and their units,” said Hammonds.
The Lacerda All-Army Combatives Championship, April 10-13, run by the 316th Cavalry Brigade, will evaluate competitors’ knowledge and use of the U.S. Army Combatives Program. The program enhances unit combat readiness by building Soldiers’ personal courage, confidence, and resiliency.
The event tests situational responsiveness to close quarters threats in the operational environment through hand-to-hand combat. Twenty-one eight-person teams will compete across eight weight classes to determine mastery of combatives skills.
As the ground combat force, U.S. Army Soldiers must be ready to fight anywhere, at any time, with any weapon – including themselves.
“The challenges the competitors must negotiate and overcome are unknown,” said Kranc. “This (stresses) participants who must demonstrate proficiency in an unpredictable and uncertain environment,” he said.
The International Sniper Competition, April 10-13, also run by the 316th Cavalry Brigade, tests competitors’ ability to navigate a rigorous gauntlet of long-range marksmanship, observation skills, reconnaissance and reporting ability, and stealth movement. Snipers increase lethality by supporting larger military force elements. By scouting out enemy positions and relaying critical information to other components of a larger force, information gathered by snipers is used to direct mortar fire, artillery strikes, and infantry engagement to destroy the enemy force.
Thirty-five three-person teams from partner and allied nations, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Special Operations Forces, and active-duty and National Guard Army units will compete.
“Their performance and partnership strengthen relationships between our services and nations, (it also) highlights opportunities to increase interoperability,” said Kranc. “The scenarios are designed around activities that either have occurred or are likely to occur in an operational setting,” he said.
Indirect Fire Soldiers will test their mettle in the Best Mortar Competition, run by the 198th Infantry Brigade, for the first time since it was last held in 2019, April 10-13. In the field, these Soldiers provide organic indirect fire support to U.S. Army maneuver elements providing increased lethality and protection.
“Past competitions have played an important role in shaping training doctrine by providing a platform for testing and refining tactics, techniques, and procedures,” said Hathaway. “By hosting the competition this year, we will play an instrumental role in promoting the development of new mortar (operations), and improving the readiness of mortar crews,” he said.
Twenty-two teams composed of four individuals each will compete in events designed to recognize superior physical fitness, and technical and tactical expertise. The Best Mortar Competition inspires excellence in the mortar community and serves to share best practices and raise esprit de corps.
Rounding out the week’s events is the 39th Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition, run by the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade. The Maneuver Center of Excellence is home to the U.S. Army Ranger Course, considered the toughest small unit leadership course in the U.S. Military.
The Army awards the Ranger Tab to Soldiers who complete the Ranger Course. The Tab sets service members apart from their peers and is a pre-requisite to participate in the competition. Over the course of three days of continuous competition, 112 Ranger-qualified individuals working as two-person “buddy teams” will traverse over 60 miles on foot with equipment weighing nearly 80 pounds.
“The competition challenges Soldiers to perform at their highest level under intense pressure and a wide range of physically and mentally demanding tasks,” said Hammonds. “(It) tests a Soldier's ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively with their teammate, all while maintaining physical and mental stamina,” he said.
During the week of the competitions, spectators will also have an opportunity to speak with service members during Meet Your Army events. The events are free to attend and give the public a chance to interact with representatives from the Atlanta Recruiting Battalion, senior leadership, and Medal of Honor recipients.
Meet Your Army events will take place April 12 at Columbus Ironworks during the Lacerda Cup finals and April 15 at AJ McClung Stadium during day two of the Best Ranger Competition. The public will get to see static displays of military vehicles with U.S. Army equipment and Soldiers.
Service members have defended our nation for more than 240 years, and the ground combat force has proved lethal in multiple conflicts across a broad spectrum of operations around the world. Infantry Week gathers elite infantry Soldiers and service members from across the force to compete in multiple disciplines exemplifying their tradecraft with the aim of proving to be the “best of the best.”