News: 1st SBCT officer duo braves, completes Best Ranger Competition
Story by Sgt. Steven Livingston
EL PASO, Texas - Two soldiers from 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, completed the Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga., April 17.
Capt. Michael Herbek, commander of the battalion’s C Company, and 1st Lt. Travis Boudreau, also assigned to the battalion, endured and completed the demanding series of tests designed for some of the country’s most elite soldiers.
The Best Ranger Competition was started in 1982 by Dick Leandri who wanted to honor his friend, Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr. The competition was meant to measure the best of the two-man buddy team.
Capt. Michael Herbek, commander of C Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, negotiates an obstacle at the 2011 Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga., April 16. Herbek’s team was the only team from Fort Bliss to complete the competition.
The rigorous, 60-hour endurance challenge tests the mental toughness, tactical knowledge and physical strength of the contestants, said Col. John King, commander of the Ranger Training Brigade.
Historically, 60 percent of the competitors do not finish the competition. Fifty teams participated in the 2011 competition with only 31 teams finishing. Herbek and Boudreau finished 25th out of the 31.
“I believe that 1st SBCT, 1st AD, and 1-36th [Infantry Regiment] have the first Best Ranger Team to have completed the competition from 1st AD in quite some time. No one here can remember the 1st AD patch in the last decade,” said Lt. Col. Christopher L. Connolly, battalion commander.
“It is important that we embrace and compete because our priority is to build a Stryker soldier,” said Col. Larry Swift, brigade commander. “Name aside, it is an infantry-based competition with dedication to physical fitness, marksmanship and the individual skills that we want to build in the ‘Ready First’ soldiers.”
“Every year it is a little different so we really didn’t know what to expect,” said Boudreau. “We only had about 60 days to prepare.”
“We took the training very seriously,” said Herbek. “We did physical training six hours a day, focusing on total body workouts and nutrition the whole time. We wanted to approach our training in the smartest way possible.”
Herbek said the team’s biggest challenge came on the first day of competition during the first event.
“We capsized our canoe on the first event, everything we had got soaking wet, resulting in compounding problems for the rest of the competition,” Herbek said.
Capt. Michael Herbek and 1st Lt. Travis Boudreau make a final run to complete the 2011 Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga., April 17.
“We lost a lot of time on the canoe event trying to turn the canoe back over,” said Boudreau. “Our map, ruck-sacks and all of our gear was wet, just adding to the total weight of everything we carried.”
“We told ourselves that we wouldn’t tap out unless it was a major medical emergency,” Herbek said. “Confidence was a big issue.”
According to Herbek, two of the biggest confidence and morale boosters were from their family members who were at the competition and hearing Swift yelling, “Ready First!” throughout events.
“We also received great advice throughout the competition from other Rangers,” Herbek said.
The team of Staff Sgt. Raymond Santiago and Sgt. 1st Class Mason Riepe, who finished third place, were always there offering advice on how to negotiate different events, Boudreau said.
“These guys didn’t have to help us,” Herbek said. “They were competing just like us, but there was no cut-throat going on. This competition showed soldiers helping soldiers and Rangers helping Rangers.”
“Seeing these young officers dedicate themselves to this competition sets an example for all of us on the excellence we need to pursue,” Swift said.
“We will build on the lessons learned and be prepared to send more teams to the competition next year,” Swift said.
Herbek and Boudreau have already started training for next year’s competition. Both members said they strongly feel they can finish in the top 10 next year.