By Kristin Molinaro, The BayonetMarch 3, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Nine teams have been selected to represent the Ranger Training Brigade at the 28th annual Best Ranger Competition April 15-17.
A mini-competition was held Wednesday at Camp Rogers to single out the top teams, said Master Sgt. Michael Hack, who is coaching the brigade's BRC teams.
Twelve teams were contending for BRC berths this week, but one team withdrew prior to the event because of an injury.
The remaining teams competed in a nonstop series of events at Camp Rogers beginning with a pull-up and push-up test and moving directly into a buddy team run with body armor, water confidence test, buddy team swim, a second buddy team run without armor, the Malvesti confidence course and wrapping up with a 12-mile foot march.
By Wednesday afternoon, two teams were eliminated because of injuries, though uninjured teammates may return as alternates if needed, Hack said.
The selected teams include four teams from 4th Ranger Training Battalion, two from 5th Ranger Training Battalion and three from 6th Ranger Training Battalion.
Though the goal was to identify the top nine teams, Hack said the event served to assess each teams level of physical fitness and what their training should focus on leading up to the April competition.
Hack, the brigade's senior tactical assistance commander and a former BRC competitor, will put the teams through a condensed training program modeling the program he used when coaching Sgts. 1st Class Chad Stackpole and Blake Simms, who won the competition in 2009.
More than half of the RTB competitors are located at camps in Dahlonega, Ga., and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Despite the distance, Hack said training will not be impacted. All of the teams received a calendar outlining the training that will take them up to competition week. Rangers from 5th and 6th RTB will train at their respective camps and return to Fort Benning for scheduled training events.
Frontrunners from 4th RTB include Sgts. 1st Class Jerry Higley and Derek Wise, who finished first in the road march. Both will be second-time BRC competitors.
Higley said as the intensity of the train-up increases, his team will hit hard on road marching.
"Anytime you're on a road march, it's not just about enduring the road march, it's a race. If you see it any other way you're going to lose," he said.
6th RTB competitors Master Sgt. Robert Carter and Staff Sgt. Thomas West are hoping the third time will be a charm.
This will be their first time competing together and they are evenly matched - both have competed in BRC twice before. To make Wednesday's cut, West said the pair worked out six days a week and did a long-distance road march every Friday. The pace will continue, he said, as they increase both running and road march distances and hammer on skill-level tasks - which tripped both up in past competitions.
Carter empathizes with the teams that were eliminated in the mini-competition because of injury, saying he experienced it firsthand in 2001 when he competed in the Best Ranger Competition for the first time.
His buddy went down 12.5 miles into the foot march with multiple foot injuries.
"He had true injuries ... and he couldn't go on any longer, even with me trying to carry some of his gear. Once you realize you're not in the fight anymore it's a little disappointing ... you just hope you get a second chance sometime down the road," said the Ranger, who returned for the 2009 competition and finished sixth overall.
Another pair looking for a second chance is 4th RTB's Sgt. 1st Class Mason Riepe and Staff Sgt. Raymond Santiago.
Riepe and Santiago teamed up for last year's competition but were sidelined by a medical issue on Day 1 when Riepe suffered a heat injury.
"That's going to change this year - you can quote me on that," Riepe said.
The BRC countdown has begun and with six weeks to competition week it's still anyone's game.