Army Rangers Rolfes and Allen are the ‘Best of the Best'

Army Rangers Rolfes and Allen are the ‘Best of the Best'

Monday, May 7, 2018

Greetings from the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), our Army’s association for education and professional development, and a major supporter of the Army’s Soldier for Life efforts.

The 35th Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition started in the dark of the morning on April 13, with 50 two-man buddy teams competing to be the best of the best at Fort Benning, Ga.

The multi-day event tests the mental and physical stamina, and the tactical and technical proficiency of the competing teams.

Team 23, consisting of Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Rolfes and Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Allen, representing the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade (ARTB), won this year’s competition.

Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Rolfes, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Allen race to assemble an 81 mm mortar system on Todd Field at Fort Benning, Ga., during the Best Ranger Competition. (Photo by Markeith Horace)

Both Rolfes and Allen competed together as a team in the 2013 competition, finishing 24th out of the competing field. While Allen did not compete in the 2014 to 2016 competitions, Rolfes teamed with another Ranger for these three competitions, finishing second in 2016.

Rolfes and Allen partnered again for the 2017 competition finishing in fourth place.

Their persistent, dedicated and yearlong commitment resulted in their successful quest to be recognized as the “best of the best.”

Rolfes, 36, hails from the Los Angeles, Calif., area, while Allen, 31, is from Brighton, Colo.

The first event of the competition, a mass run over an unknown distance to an unknown destination, and knowing each buddy team would receive points based on their finishing order – first place 50 points, second place 49 points, etc., – set the tone for each of the 26 events in the competition.

Historically, in this competition, it is unusual for a team to know how many points each event is worth, because Best Ranger scoring has always been kept a secret.

“We’re all about transparency, so we let the competitors know the weight of each event – what it’s worth,” said Col. Douglas Vincent, the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade (ARTB) commander.

Adding, “So they can surge and rest as required, where they want to.”

Each year the competition evolves and changes from the previous year’s competition.

This year the buddy run increased from 5 miles to 8, the road march increased from 15 miles to 17, pushing the distance traveled over the 60 hours of competition to more than 65 miles.

After the first day of competition, the competitor field was cut from 50 to 24 teams, and then cut again to 16 teams for the final phase on Sunday.

The competition is run over a period of three days and two nights. “The Sunday events are more heavily weighted,” Vincent said, adding “requiring the final teams to keep their momentum going and allowing for come-from-behind victories.”

All the teams competing in the 2018 competition represented organizations from across the Army and this year, one sister service, a Ranger qualified team from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, participated.

In addition to the Regular Army divisions, competing teams from the National Guard; the 3rd Cavalry Regiment; 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team; the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard); 75th Ranger Regiment; U.S. Army Special Operations Command; Airborne Ranger Training Brigade; U.S. Army Alaska; the 193rd and 198th Infantry Brigades; U.S. Military Academy; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear School; Cyber Protection Brigade, and the Intelligence Center of Excellence competed.

The competition is named for Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr. who served from 1942 to 1984 and was a combat veteran of 20 campaigns from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

During his 42 years of service to America’s Army, Grange served as a Ranger instructor and director of the Ranger Department. He also commanded Fort Benning, the 2nd Infantry Division, and the United States Sixth Army.

The competition began in 1981 to identify the best two-man Ranger buddy team in the Ranger Department at Fort Benning.

The competition grew and expanded over the years to include all Ranger qualified soldiers serving in all three components of the Army, sister services and partner nations around the world.

For those considering competing in a future competition, competitors must be Ranger qualified, have no adverse personnel actions pending, complete a Ranger Physical within the last 12 months and submit a competitor packet with a letter of intent from the competitor’s chain of command.

All of this year’s competitors arrived three days early where they were billeted on Camp Rogers and participated in an orientation and training itinerary on the course.

Finishing in second place was team 32 with Capt. Matthew Thwaites and 1st Lt. Kendall Ward representing the 75th Ranger Regiment.

In third place was team 33, also from the 75th Ranger Regiment with 1st Lt. Jeremy Dettmer and Cpl. Tyler Taormina.

All three teams had outstanding performances throughout the competition, consistently maintaining one of the highest scores on each event.

“At about midnight Saturday night while going into the final day of the competition, the Georgia skies opened and dumped ample amounts of water and lightning on the Rangers,” said Army Ranger Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmie Spencer, U.S Army, Ret. “By Sunday morning the rain had slowed, but it had not stopped.”

He added, “A constant reminder of the conversation each Ranger had with himself or herself years ago: ‘Go ahead, volunteer for the Infantry and while you are at it, go to Ranger school, it will be fun.’”

The competing teams were tested on their day and night land navigation skills, extended road marches, weapons firing on six different ranges to include small arms, machineguns, and establishing an 81mm mortar firing point.

The competition included a host of obstacle course challenges to include the famous Darby Queen Obstacle Course, rappelling, multiple technical and tactical tasks, and to keep the Rangers focused on the unknown, a variety of mystery tasks.

This competition represents, in many ways, what is expected of our very best soldiers in uniform who wear the Ranger Tab.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of Staff, recognized the Best Ranger Competition winners at the end, emphasizing their strength, resilience and ability to ignore pain collectively as a team, and accomplish the mission, no matter how difficult.

Calling the competition, “the Ranger Olympics,” he praised those competitors who volunteered to compete and the pride every individual should feel for finishing this competition.

For the Ranger legends in attendance, these words touched their hearts, knowing the next generation of Rangers continues to uphold the essence and traditions of the Ranger’s Creed:

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.

Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite Soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger, my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other Soldier.

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one-hundred percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained Soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment will set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission through I be the lone survivor.

Rangers Lead the Way!

These outstanding soldiers are trained to stand up against insurmountable odds and challenges, and expected to complete their mission.

This competition is “super-tough” by design, and ultimately separates and identifies the very best soldiers of this elite group.

For those who witnessed the competition and watched all 50 two-man Ranger qualified buddy teams compete, it was evident these competitors are truly world-class athletes who at the end of the competition, remain loyal to their nation and return to their formations to train and mentor the next generation of Rangers.

What is amazing today throughout our formations, is these professional development events are occurring all the time, around the Army across the nation and around the globe.

If any of the discussions on professional development in this column, in AUSA News and ARMY magazine, on our webpage or in our social media coverage are of interest and educational value to you, then you need to be a member of the Army’s professional association.

There is no substitute for the knowledge and wisdom gained through experience.

When you are a young up-and-coming Army professional, associating with other members of your profession with varied experiences creates a unique opportunity to learn through the eyes of others.

Now more than ever America’s Army needs AUSA, and AUSA needs your membership support.

Membership is the volume knob to ensure your voice is amplified many times over and heard throughout the halls of Congress, from sea to shining sea across this country, and throughout every small town and community in-between.

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Still Serving, Still Saluting!