Best Ranger Competition may be in jeopardy

benw@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 8, 2013 

Amid government cuts that went into effect a week ago, the 30th annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning may be in jeopardy.

"I'm worried sick about it," retired Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr. said Friday of the event bearing his name. "I'm scared to death they are going to call it off."

Less than five weeks before the grueling event kicks off April 12, public affairs spokeswoman Elsie Jackson said she couldn't confirm whether the annual event would be held. The three-day event pushes each two-man Ranger team to the limits with 60 hours of competition in firing weapons, marching with gear for miles and other timed exercises. Rangers are tested in physical conditioning, skills and team strategies to determine the best team in the Army.

Grange, 87, said the event doesn't cost the government any money, but officials are watching their pennies to be politically correct. Organizers of the event sponsored by the National Ranger Association have enough money to put on the event this year, Grange said.

"It's a nice event," he said. "It doesn't cost the Army a nickel."

At the end of the contest, the winning team is presented new pistols and other prizes.

"Everybody has been sending in money and gifts for the prizes," the general said. "It's hard to turn around now."

Grange said he also has four airline tickets in his desk and reservations at a Columbus hotel.

To recognize the 30th anniversary of the event, Grange said he had lined up former Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell as speaker.

"I pulled it off," Grange said of Powell who was a Ranger at Fort Benning. "I've been working on it since October. It's our 30th anniversary. It would have been a big year for us."

Since the competition was established in 1982, it only has been cancelled twice, in 2003 and 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. Grange knows how important it is to keep the competition going.

"What scares me is once you stop doing it, it's hard to get it started again," he said.

Support at the post remains strong to hold the event, which boosts morale and helps recruiting.

"It shows the spirit of the Army," Grange said. "I don't know what the spirt of the Army is with all the reductions and everything. This sequester thing is just terrible."

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