By By Vince Little, The BayonetApril 16, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Action resumed Saturday morning at the David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition - after a tumultuous night of thunderstorms rocked the local area.
Ironically, the weather left the field more intact than in previous years at this stage as officials were forced to delay the start of the night orienteering course, a grueling 10-mile trek that wreaks havoc on competitors.
"We started with 50 teams and 34 remain," said Lt. Col. Kyle Feger, deputy commander of the Ranger Training Brigade, which oversees the Best Ranger Competition. "It's a little higher than what we would have at this point. Due to weather interruptions, we had to delay the start and curtail some of the night land navigation before the normal end time."
A possible tornado touched down about a mile up the road from the RTB compound in Harmony Church, damaging several buildings and tossing vehicles into wooded areas. There were no reports of injuries.
Lightning also was a concern for Best Ranger Competition organizers.
"We got everybody out of the weather," Feger said. "Our first priority is to make sure this is done safely."
Based on historical averages, the field would've lost another half-dozen teams heading into Saturday's Ranger Day Stakes at Todd Field.
Staff Sgt. Charles Cogle and Spc. Christopher Broussard of the 75th Ranger Regiment lead at the outset of Day 2 over the team of Master Sgt. Eric Turk and Sgt. Maj. Walter Zajkowski of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Sgt. 1st Class Mason Riepe and Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Santiago of RTB sat in third place.
Feger said the weather delays yielded other unintended consequences in the form of extra rest.
"The teams that finished the urban assault course early (Friday) got potentially six to eight hours of rest before going back out that night around (11 p.m.)," he said. "If you're in the lead at that point and a delay occurs, you may end up getting an additional break not normally built in, and that's certainly to your advantage."
The night-movement events are expected to crank up at the completion of Ranger Day Stakes. Sunday morning's daybreak start will be highlighted by the Darby Queen Obstacle Course on Camp Darby and Helocast/Water Confidence Test at Victory Pond.
The three-day Best Ranger Competition challenges the duos in events that test their physical conditioning, mental endurance, tactical proficiency and team strategies. The scenarios and tasks are purposely scheduled back-to-back and around the clock from Friday's start to Sunday's finish.
More than half the field is comprised of first-time entries, but nearly all are combat veterans.
Historically, 60 percent of competitors don't finish the BRC, with most being eliminated or withdrawing due to injury.
Follow the competition online through Fort Benning's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fortbenningfans or through the Twitter feed at www.army.mil/ranger.