Fort Benning

Road march forces 24 teams from Best Ranger Competition

A 17-mile road march knocked out 24 teams Friday night in the 32nd Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition, leaving 24 teams for the last two days of the three-day competition which ends Sunday.

Since the grueling event started early Friday with 51 teams to determine the best pair of Army Rangers, 27 teams have been dropped because of injuries, heat and other ailments at Fort Benning.

Going into the second day of the contest after Friday night’s events, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Lemma and Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Briggs of Team 38 from the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade was in first place, moving ahead of their closest competitors, Capt. Robert Killian and Capt. Travis Cornwall of Team 10 from the Army National Guard. In third place was Staff Sgt. Philip Jewah and Sgt. Thomas Malphrus of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Team 27.

The National Guard team was in first place after the road march but was bumped to second place after a test on knot-tying techniques, weapons assembly, map reading and land navigation skills and information from the Ranger Handbook.

Relatives and supporters crowded into Todd Field for most of Saturday to watch Ranger teams compete in a series of exercises. Six events included a Ranger First Responder lane, a grenade assault course, a demolitions lane, a stress shoot event, the Tri-tower Challenge and a mystery event.

John and Denise Brend of Milwaukee were at the competition to support their son, Capt. Jay Brend and Capt. Mark Gaudet of the 199th Infantry Brigade at Fort Benning. Capt. Brend also competed in 2012 and 2013. The parents sat near a holding area where their son was trying to get some rest after the road march.

The competition bears the name of retired Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr. who was among the onlookers at Ranger teams in the competition. He was accompanied briefly by the Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Gen. Daniel B. Allyn and Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning.

Grange, a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, celebrated his 90th birthday after arriving in Columbus. The general said he was impressed with the crowds for the opening ceremony Friday and visitors to Todd Field on Saturday. “Columbus came out to see it,” he said.

The general said the competition is pretty much the same but this year mortars were added. “They are firing them this year which is good,” he said. “It teaches them how to call for fire.” Near the entrance of Todd Field, Ranger instructors from the past used the event as a reunion. Many gathered in the covered stand to take a group photo.

Retired Col. Skip Chittenden of Columbus talks proudly of how he helped write the first Ranger Handbook in 1961. “We were out teaching Rangers and one tried to take some notes on a piece of paper all shredded,” he said. “I said why don’t we put something out that tells them what he would be doing. It was something that would be water proof. That evolved into the Ranger Handbook.”

The first book with about 70 pages included all the main points of instructions at Fort Benning. Instructions for the mountain phase in Camp Merrill near Dahlonega, Ga., and the swamp phase at Eglin Air Force Base also were added. “What we ended up with was pretty comprehensive,” Chittenden said.

The winning team will be selected Sunday after Rangers complete a final buddy run to Camp Rogers.

An awards ceremony is at 10 a.m. Monday in Marshall Auditorium at McGinnis-Wickam Hall where the guest speaker will be Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, a Ranger.