Fort Benning Bayonet
The 30th Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition saw 49 teams start the competition at the opening ceremonies, but by the end of competition’s four-mile buddy run, only 24 teams were left standing.
The competition is known for the grueling endurance test it provides, and this year was no different.
The competition began with a foot march, followed by the Darby Queen obstacle course, a demolition test, spot jump, another foot march, the testing of several military skills during night and day stakes.
It also had a fast rope insertion extraction system event and cargo pull, a Ranger urban obstacle course, a five-mile buddy run, the Malvesti obstacle course, night orienteering exercises, another segment of night stakes, a canoe and swim, a water confidence test and a final four-mile buddy run.
After the first foot march, which one competitor estimated to be 14 miles in length, competitors had a break before taking their turn at completing the Darby Queen obstacle course.
"It was kind of a rough start," Capt. Jay Brend, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, Fort Myer, Va., said.
Adding, "We thought we were going to be closer to the front, but we were able to adjust for that when we came to the land navigation point. A lot of teams took the time to diligently plot their points, but we didn’t do that. We just kind of followed the team that took off first, and that really paid off for us and put us in 13th."
Brend and his partner, Capt. Jeremy Gilbert, said they were putting a large amount of emphasis on the Darby Queen. A quick finish would provide them with more time to rest before the second foot march.
"We want to get this done as soon as possible so we can get some rest before the night road march," Brend said.
"That road march is a killer, and a lot of teams are going to fall off because of it, especially if they don’t get a lot of rest. If you’re in the back, you’re in trouble. Last year, I competed and we only had about 10 minutes off before the road march, and it killed me," he said.
Meanwhile, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Diaz, 165th Infantry Brigade, Fort Jackson, S.C., said he and his partner, Staff Sgt. Bror McWhinney, were simply hoping to advance to the second day of competition.
"Our only goal right now is just to make it to day two," Diaz said.
Adding, "You just go and try to do your best and practice on all the skills you’ve learned throughout your military career."
While Diaz and McWhinney were unable to finish the competition, Diaz said the important thing was to provide an example for their fellow soldiers back at Fort Jackson.
"We just want to represent Fort Jackson and all the other drill sergeants against the Army’s elite," Diaz said. "This has been a blessing to be able to do this."
Brend and Gilbert, meanwhile, were able to finish the competition, eventually finishing in 12th place.
Gilbert said both their training and Brend’s previous experience at Best Ranger helped the team along the way.
"It’s just been hours and hours of training," Gilbert said.
He added, "This has pretty much been our focus since January. We’ve had two-a-day workouts and skills training every day. It’s pretty much been our life. His experience has been very valuable, I guess one of the big things for teams that come in and have never competed before is the uncertainty of what’s next. So, his confidence and focus has been amazing for the team."
In addition to the soldiers experiencing the thrill of competition throughout the weekend, the friends and families of the competitors also were on hand to cheer on their respective teams.
"It’s exciting," Veronica Peiffer, the wife of Staff Sgt. Christopher Peiffer, 75th Ranger Regiment, said.
Adding, "I love it. We have a couple of friends who are competing as well, so it’s good to be out her cheering on everyone. And, the weather’s been good, so that always helps."
Peiffer said her husband had been anxiously awaiting the competition and was well prepared.
"He’s not been nervous, but he has been kind of anxious," Peiffer said.
"He’s been training for months now, so I think he was just ready to compete and have the competition be over with," she explained.