National Guard team still leads at Best Ranger

benw@ledger-enquirer.comApril 12, 2014 

An Army National Guard team was still leading the David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition on Saturday after a road march of more than 20 miles took a toll on 24 teams.

Capt. Robert Killian and 1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar of team No. 32 were still on top as 26 remaining teams competed to become the best Ranger team in the Army. A post spokeswoman said Cpl. Daniel Puckett and Staff Sgt. Eric Adams of team No. 47 from the 75th Ranger Regiment was in second place followed by 2nd Lt. Michael Rose and 2nd Lt. John Bergman of team No. 20 with the 25th Infantry Division.

Plocar and Killian trained and competed in Ironman competitions before moving to Fort Benning for the grueling contest.

Four of 50 teams that started the contest before dawn Friday left the competition on the first day and 20 more were dropped by the time the road march ended around 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Officials said more may be lost after the night exercises.

Many Saturday events were at Todd Field where supporters and family members watched tower climbing, the first responder course, three tower climbing exercises and a mystery obstacle in a black tent.

The event bears the name of retired Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr., a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. After taking a tour of Todd Field and watching some of the Day Stakes events, Grange said he’s impressed with the shape in which competitors are arriving for the Best Ranger.

“They come here prepared to win,” the general said. “Losing is not a factor.”

Grange, 89, said he expects a National Guard team to place in the top 10 this year, although the weekend soldiers don’t have the facilities to train as active Rangers. Those serving as doctors, lawyers, police officers and firefighters have to find time to get in shape.

Although budgets are tight, Grange said there were no problems putting on the event this year. He said the competition still needs a balance of endurance events like the road marches with more technical exercises at Todd Field.

“I don’t want to take out any events at Todd Field,” he said.

David Lockett, a retired first sergeant, was among Rangers and other family members watching the events. Lockett graduated from Ranger School in 1959 and served two tours in Vietnam.

“When I came back from Vietnam, the last time, General Grange was the department director,” he said. “He made me in charge of the Ranger Committee. I was in charge of Camp Darby and training.”

Before he retired in 1973, Lockett said he served 12 years as a Ranger instructor.

Rhonda and Ron Davis of Holly, Colo., were on the field with about 15 relatives to get a glimpse of their son, Staff Sgt. Kelly Davis, and his partner, Sgt. 1st Class Justin Glaubitz, of team No. 46, 75th Ranger Regiment. They were happy the team made it through the rigorous road march to stay in the competition.

Ron said he was able to talk to his son briefly. “They wanted 24 teams gone,” the father said. “They are pushing these guys this year. They are pushing them like no other.”

Ron said the teams surviving the road march took a beating. “It beat them up bad,” Ron said. “They were going to go until they lost enough teams.” Rhonda remained hopeful for her son. “He is in good spirits,” she said.

Capt. Craig Barnhill of the Airborne Ranger Training Brigade said the remaining teams will spend more time on their feet Saturday night in land navigation. “They will do that all night,” he said.

The competition ends Sunday afternoon with a buddy run to Freedom Hall.

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