The best of the best ... again!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

"It’s truly a test of tactical, mental and technical proficiencies and these are the tools that every successful leader has to have on the battlefield," Army Secretary John McHugh said referring to the annual Best Ranger Competition.

The spectators were gathered in front of the Ranger Training Brigade’s Headquarters at Fort Benning, Ga., about an hour before dawn.

A command was given by the 3d Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) to post the colors, and with that the 28th Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition began.

Fifty two-man Ranger teams from around the Army started the three-day competition with hopes of winning and being named the best of the best – the 2011 Best Ranger Team.

It all began in 1982 and has been cancelled only twice, in 1991 during Desert Storm and in 2003 at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The rigorous competition – dubbed the Ranger Olympics – tests the Ranger’s level of physical and mental conditioning, and each event runs the gamut of Ranger knowledge and skill.

All events are timed and competitors score points for each event. Both team members must compete in each task. The events are conducted back to back with no rest or sleep breaks scheduled during the three-day competition.

The competition is named in honor of Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr., USA, Ret.

Grange was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 1992 – its inaugural year – for his dedication to duty and contributions as a Ranger and leader.

A Vietnam veteran, who served as the director of the Ranger Department and later commanded the 2d Infantry Division, the U.S. Army Infantry Center and 6th U.S. Army, Grange retired after 41 years of selfless-service to the nation in 1984. He is a legend in the Ranger community and a role model for us all.

This year’s Best Ranger winning team consisted of Sgt. Maj. Walter Zajkowski and Master Sgt. Eric Turk from U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

In a close second was the 75th Ranger Regiment Team, Staff Sgt. Charles Cogle and Spc. Christopher Broussard.

Third place was held by two Ranger instructors from the Ranger Training Brigade, Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Santiago and Sgt. 1st Class Mason Riepe.

Of the 50 teams that began this competition, 31 crossed the finish line. For a complete list of the 50 teams and how they placed, go to the AUSA Web site –"NCO and Soldier Programs."

This year’s winning team members are not just the Best of the Best but may be the "Best Ever."

Zajkowski and Turk are winners of the Best Ranger Competition – for the second time.

Turk was a member of the 2010 winning team and Zajkowski’s team won in 2007.

"It’s internal pride, once it gets in your blood," Turk said of why he keeps competing.

"As a Ranger you are a leader," Zajkowski said. "And, you have to get out there and show people what Rangers are all about. You have to inspire the next generation of Rangers."

The one-hundred intrepid warriors who started this year’s competition represent the very best combat leaders in our Army formations. The 50 two-man teams are the super stars in their units.

To compete is an honor, to finish is an achievement worthy of the highest praise and to win or place near the top gives the team "bragging rights."

Congratulations to all of the 2011 competitors.

You are all winners and you should be proud of yourselves.

The real winner is America’s Army because as long as we have professionals like you leading our soldiers we will remain Army Strong.

Rangers lead the way!