Command Sergeant Major Jimmie W. Spencer, USA, Ret.
Director, Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier Programs
The 29th Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition, held at Fort Benning, Ga., is now complete, and for the third consecutive year a team from the United States Army Special Operations Command prevailed.
Master Sgt. Kevin Foutz and Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Payne struck the traditional triumphant pose – matching Colt pistols held aloft.
Fifty, two-man Ranger teams started the grueling 2012 "Ranger Olympics" competition with 34 teams crossing the finish line 60 hours later.
This means 60 hours of non-stop action, with no scheduled rest, designed to test their mental strength and physical endurance.
"A competitor must be strong mentally because he’s about to go through a competition with no real knowledge of what to expect, much like combat. It takes a lot of heart." Sgt. 1st Class Mike Dean, a spokesman at the Ranger Training Brigade at Benning, said.
It all began in the summer of 1981 when the Ranger Department was asked to design and conduct a competition to identify the best two-man Ranger "Buddy Team" in the Ranger Department.
The competition was to place extreme demands on each buddy team’s physical, mental, technical and tactical skills as Rangers.
The standards of performance were to test the mettle of those Ranger-qualified instructors who dared to compete.
In 1984, the competition was expanded to include teams from throughout America’s Army, and it just seems to get bigger and better each year. (The 1991 and 2003 competitions were not held due to ongoing combat operations.)
Interest and participation in this world-class event has increased annually. This year teams from the active and reserve components, conventional and Special Operations Forces, along with teams from the operational and institutional Army participated.
The Best Ranger Competition is named in honor of one of the most respected icons in the Ranger community, Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr., USA, Ret.
He is a former Ranger instructor, Ranger Department director and Fort Benning commanding general.
He also commanded the 2nd Infantry Division and the U.S. Sixth Army during his lifetime of selfless service to the nation. His passion for soldiers – and specifically Rangers – is legendary.
The competition was, as always, well attended.
Among the family members, friends and well-wishers were many distinguished Ranger standard bearers of the past to include: Sgt. Maj. of the Army Glen Morrell, USA, Ret.; Maj. Gen. Kenneth C. Leuer, USA, Ret.; and Command Sgt. Maj. William Acebes, USA, Ret., the 2012 Infantry Doughboy Award recipient.
These three distinguished soldiers are also members of the Ranger Hall of Fame.
"Your entire body [during the competition] is sore and in pain. You just push through it," Foutz said.
Adding, "Where my weaknesses are, he had strengths, and vice versa. We knew we were going to have to drag each other along."
The second place team was from the Ranger Training Brigade. Staff Sgt. Raymon Santiago and Staff Sgt. Chad Acton were the members.
The number three spot was captured by a team from the Army National Guard – Sgt. 1st Class Zach Phillips and Staff Sgt. Matt Madiar.
For a list of the teams who completed in the competition and how they placed, go to: AUSA.org.
The guest speaker for the award ceremony was the commander of the United States Army Forces Command, Gen. David M. Rodriguez.
Col. John W. King II, commander of the Ranger Training Brigade, introduced Rodriguez and said that of the 265,000 active component soldiers Rodriguez is responsible for manning, equipping and training, and the 560,000 soldiers of the reserve components he has training and readiness oversight – the top 100 are on stage with him today, the 2012 Best Ranger competitors.
No one disagreed.