By Kristin Molinaro, The BayonetApril 13, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga., April 14, 2011 -- The events are set for another grueling 60-hour demonstration of mental toughness and physical strength among contestants in the 28th annual Best Ranger Competition.
Fifty teams gathered Monday at Fort Benning in preparation for the event, which kicks off before dawn Friday and wraps Sunday evening.
Best Ranger Competition planners liken the three-day endurance test to a combination of an Ironman triathlon and an eco-challenge with weapons, ammo and little sleep. Events are scheduled around the clock with no sleep breaks built in and run the gamut of Ranger knowledge and skill.
"The competitors are equal to Olympic athletes in their level of physical and mental conditioning," said Col. John King, commander of the Ranger Training Brigade, which plans and oversees the annual competition.
The rigorous three-day competition was first held in 1982 and has been canceled only twice - in 1991 during Desert Storm and in 2003 at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. All competitors are graduates of the U.S. Army Ranger School.
Two previous Best Ranger Competition winners have teamed up for the 2011 competition. Master Sgt. Eric Turk, of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command team that won in 2010, is partnered with 2007 winner, Sgt. Maj. Walter Zajkowski.
The competition begins at Malvesti Field near Ranger Training Brigade headquarters. Historically, 60 percent of competitors don't finish the competition, with most of the eliminations occurring in the first 24 hours. Of the 45 teams that started the 2010 competition, only 25 finished.
Those remaining Saturday morning will launch into Day Stakes at Todd Field - a spectator-friendly site with all of the Ranger teams and events collocated. Contestants will cross the finish line Sunday afternoon in front of Freedom Hall at Lawson Army Airfield.
All events are timed and competitors score points for each completed event. Both team members must complete each task.
Visit www.army.mil/ranger for contest information. To follow the competition, become a fan of Fort Benning's Facebook page and click on the Best Ranger Competition link at www.facebook.com/fortbenningfans. The link will feature video and photo galleries, news feeds and a blog.