Two teams from the Army National Guard including one with experience in Ironman competitions are leading the David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition on the first day of the contest.
---- A public affairs spokeswoman said Capt. Robert Killian and 1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar of team No. 32 is leading followed by 1st Lt. Jose Moreno and Staff Sgt. William Kocken of team No. 34. Third place goes to 1st Sgt. Joshua King and Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jackson of the 5th Special Forces Group, team no. 25. Plocar and Killian have both competed in Ironman competitions before training for the competition to determine the best Ranger team in the Army.
Four of 50 teams that started the contest before dawn Friday have left the competition but officials didn’t disclose a reason. From the very start, the 31st annual competition was filled with a series of events on the ground and in the water.
“They have had them racing all day long,” Capt. Michael Broussard said while supporting team No. 45, his brother Staff Sgt. Christopher Broussard and partner, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Cogle, of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
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The captain won the event as a staff sergeant in 2008 with Staff Sgt. Shayne Cherry.
Only 24 teams with the top scores will be competing by today, after a night of land navigation and a grueling foot march. The teams will cover more than 60 miles over three days while firing weapons, pushing through road marches, navigation courses, water survival, Ranger skills and parachute jumps.
“I don’t think 24 are going to make it this year,” Capt. Broussard said of all the teams. “It’s a real tough day one. I think day two is not easier. Day one is near impossible right now.”
After a morning filled with a water survival test, obstacles at Malvesti Field, three buddy runs including a 12-mile trek, teams jogged into Krilling Range at Harmony Church for a stress shooting contest. The event requires teams to move through an area under fire while rescuing a casualty. Both team members fire at targets with 9 mm pistols and M4 rifles.
“What we are replicating here is moving a casualty under fire under a combat situation,” said 1st Lt. Zackary Hartley of the 4th Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning. “The casualty weighs just as much as a normal person in full kit. They have to rescue their fellow soldier throughout the entire course.”
Hartley said all the teams seemed prepared for the stress shooting contest. “All team are giving it everything they got and pushing as hard as they can,” he said. “It is a tough course. It’s not easy.”
When the shooting contest ends, Hartley said Ranger teams hit the road again with a four mile road march followed by another similar run. He estimates that each team will cover around 40 miles the first day.
Capt. Broussard, who came from Germany to watch his brother compete, said it takes conditioning to get through the road march and the entire contest. “Going for 60 hours is not easy to do,” he said.
More than 100 spectators were at Krilling Range for the shooting exercises.
Laurie Boesch said she drove from Franklin, Tenn., to support her son, Sgt. Matthew Boesch. He is competing with Capt. Steven Crowe in team No. 26. “He has done it all before, just not as a competition,” she said. “I hope I get to see him.”
A visit to Fort Benning brought back memories for retired 1st Sgt. Jim Smith, who was an alternate for the first Ranger competition in 1982 before it was expanded throughout the Army.
“They seem to have all the nice equipment,” Smith said of soldiers’ gear and facilities. “We didn’t have that back then.”
Smith, 58, said he never got a chance to compete in Best Ranger because only two teams were allowed from each camp at Fort Benning in the beginning. “I had to become a grader after I qualified,” he said.
Smith said he came to Fort Benning more than three decades after the first event because he was invited. “It’s probably because no one ever knew where I was,” said Smith, who now lives in Oregon.
The Ranger competition resumes at 2:30 a.m. today with Night Stakes at Camp Rogers followed by Day Stakes at Todd Field.