Fort Benning

50 teams to face off for Best Ranger title

In a week, more than 50 two-man Ranger teams will take part in the 32nd Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning.

The three-day event kicks off at 6 a.m. April 10 at Camp Rogers, covering more than 60 miles with very little time to eat or sleep. There will be weapons firings, extensive road marches of near marathon distances, navigation courses, Ranger skills and a mystery event to determine the best Ranger team in the Army.

By the time winners are announced after a buddy run on April 12, only about half of the Ranger teams will be around to finish the grueling event. Retired Army Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr., a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, said Thursday the event bearing his name is going to be wonderful.

"It gets better every year," he said.

Several top military leaders are expected in attendance at the event, Grange said. The Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Gen. Daniel B. Allyn will be at the post for the competition. During the awards ceremony on April 13, Grange said, the guest speaker will be Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey.

The general said non-commissioned officers will be delighted to have the sergeant major of the Army at the Best Ranger ceremony. He also noted that Dailey is a Ranger.

"We haven't had a Ranger-qualified sergeant major of the Army for maybe two terms now," Grange said.

"It's been a while. He's a sure Ranger."

After looking over the list of Ranger teams, Grange said just about every division or every combat unit has a team in the competition. The 25th Infantry Division team of 2nd Lt. Michael Rose and 2nd Lt. John Bergman won the event last year on the final day of competition.

They had to overtake the National Guard team of Capt. Robert Killian and 1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar, who led after the first and second day but finished second overall.

Grange said the National Guard team almost won the event; two second lieutenants came in first; and the event had a couple of teams with corporals, young non-commissioned officers, to complete the competition. "I think that speaks highly for the young enlisted soldiers we have in our Army," Grange said. "It's just wonderful. We had three nice events there. Things are looking good for the Rangers."

The National Guard is returning this year with four teams and half of the second-place team is competing again.

"They almost won last year," Grange said. "They are ready. They are coming in to win. They are not coming in to play."

Grange said he is looking forward to the competition at Fort Benning after a tough winter in Pennsylvania. He will celebrate his 90th birthday while attending the event.