Friday’s heat and humidity took their toll on the 2010 Best Ranger Competition almost immediately.
The competition kicked off with a three- to five-mile buddy run at 6:30 a.m. from Camp Rogers.
But by 7:15 a.m., as some teams began tackling the second event — an urban obstacle course — one of the 40 teams entered was forced out. Master Sgt. Michael Miller and 1st Lt. Daniel Norwood, Team 38, were disqualified after Miller succumbed to the heat during the buddy run.
Miller had a dangerously high core body temperature when he arrived at the hospital for treatment, said Capt. John Vickery of 4th Ranger Training Battalion.
The weather may be more cooperative for the rest of the weekend. The high for today is expected to be 81 degrees with a slight chance of thunderstorms. Sunday is also expected to be partly cloudy with a high of 76. The lows both nights should be in the mid to low 50s.
Miller and Norwood, both Air Force, were the only non-Army team in this year’s competition. Still, there is diversity of a sort among the competitors.
The 3rd Infantry Regiment, or Old Guard, is represented by Team 37, consisting of Capt. Derrick Anderson and Staff Sgt. Christopher Malone. There are three Army National Guard teams, one team from U.S. Human Resources Command, one from the Asymmetrical Warfare Group and a handful from U.S. Special Operations Command. The majority of the roster is comprised of teams from the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 199th Infantry Brigade.
A family affair
The urban obstacle course was a new event this year. It took place in a colorful, mock city that’s supposed to simulate an urban operations environment in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Louis Sisneros, who competed in the Best Ranger Competition in 2001, said he was glad to see a new event on the schedule this year.
“In a lot of ways it’s good because the Army’s changing,” Sisneros said, adding that he’d like to see the competition held some day at another installation such as Fort Bragg or Fort Hood.
“At Bragg you’d have more mountainous-type events or in the west you have more desert,” Sisneros said. “It would just be good to have different terrain.”
Sisneros said he came to Fort Benning to cheer on longtime friend, Staff Sgt. Joshua Horsager, of Team 24. He wasn’t alone. Horsager and his partner, Sgt. 1st Class Brett Johnson, both of the 75th Ranger Regiment, drew spectators from as far as California. Denis Horsager, Staff Sgt. Horsager’s dad, flew from North Dakota to see his son’s team perform.
Team 7, consisting of Master Sgt. James “Jimmy” Moran and Master Sgt. Evert “Skip” Soderholm, both of U.S. Special Operations Command, also drew a crowd of vociferous supporters.
Tracey Deitsch, Moran’s sister, said her brother and Soderholm are in this to win it.
Linda Faus, Soderholm’s mom, said, “They didn’t come here to be first loser. Besides, I told Skip I wanted this to be my Mother’s Day gift.”
Mark Horbay, father of Team 25 competitor, Sgt. Frank Horbay of the 75th Ranger Regiment, said his son’s unit pulled him from a tour in Afghanistan to compete in this year’s Best Ranger Competition.
“He’s got a lot of heart. Always has,” Mark Horbay said. “He’s not as big and strong as a lot of these guys, but he’s not a quitter.”
Jimmy Medeiros flew down to Fort Benning from Boston to see one of his best friends, Staff Sgt. Robert Tobin, compete. Tobin is paired with Capt. Christopher Ahlemeyer. Both men serve with the Rhode Island National Guard.
“There’s no quit in him. Not an ounce,” Medeiros said.
Marissa Ballesteros, an Army captain who is stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, was rooting for her husband, Capt. Ashton Ballesteros, throughout the day knowing that after three events he and his teammate, Sgt. 1st Class Cedric King, were already exhausted.
“He knew it was going to suck and that it was going to be both mentally and physically challenging,” Marissa Ballesteros said, adding that both her husband and King are surely going to want to drink a few beers and then go right to sleep come Sunday night.
Marching into Day 2
By about 10 a.m., most of the teams had completed the urban obstacle course and were well into the day’s third event: Orienteering.
The stress shoot on Malone 3 picked up where orienteering left off. There, competitors negotiated an M-4 carbine weapons range before walking a short distance to Malone 5 where they engaged 16 targets as a machine gun team.
Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Taylor, with the 4th Ranger Training Battalion, said each team had to squeeze off a total of 130 rounds with an M240-B and an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon to engage pop up targets.
“The hard part of this range is the ammo count has been taken down from the normal transition range qualification as well as the time standard,” Taylor said.
The machine gun shoot was followed by a moving target shoot, which immediately led into a second buddy run. The spot jump onto Fryar Drop Zone came next, followed by another round of orienteering. Finally, the teams set off on a nighttime foot march of an unknown distance.
“You can come in here physically prepared, but after that first day when you go into that foot march, that’s the event that really separates those guys that are going to finish and those guys who just aren’t ready yet,” said Col. Douglas Flohr, commander of the Ranger Training Brigade.
Vickery said each competitor will carry approximately 70 pounds on their backs throughout the competition.
“They’ll probably do 17 miles on their feet before the start of the foot march tonight,” Vickery said Friday morning.
He also said that by the time Day 2 begins, only about half of the teams will be left in the competition.
Today, competitors will tackle night stakes, the spectator-friendly day stakes on Todd Field and night orienteering. Day stakes begins at 8 a.m. and will go late into the afternoon.