SPRINGIELD, Ill. – As the creed states, a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air. Staff Sgt. Matthew Madiar of Chicago and Sgt. 1st Class Zach Phillips of Portland, Ore., lived the Ranger Creed while competing at the 29th Annual David E. Grange, Jr. Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga., April 13 to 15.
Madiar, with the Illinois Army National Guard’s Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment in Aurora, Ill., and Phillips with the Oregon Army National Guard (Team 50), placed third among 50 two-man Ranger teams. This is the highest a National Guard team has ever placed. The only two National Guard teams that qualified for the competition placed in the top six with only 34 of 50 teams completing the 60-hour competition.
“I was physically and mentally exhausted after the Darby Queen obstacle course,” said Phillips. “That was the one and only time I questioned if I was going to make it to the end.”
Not only did the team finish, they excelled. Before the obstacle course, Rangers began the competition with a three-mile buddy run that transitioned into a 15-mile foot march. After the obstacle course, the team was flown by helicopter to the urban assault course. Both National Guard teams were in the top five standings for the day. Only 34 teams remained after the first day of endurance events.
Day two began with timed skill events. The high-stress shoot at the Krilling Range was one of the most successful events, said Madiar. The 500-yard course consisted of moving a stretcher with a simulated casualty throughout the obstacle with periodic stops at various ranges to fire five vintage rifles at steel and six-inch targets.
The teams then moved by a Stryker fighting vehicle for eight, round-robin timed stations. The major event of the day was the Tri-Tower Challenge, where competitors climbed a 60-foot wall, 30-foot collapsible ladder and a 20-foot knotted rope, rappelling down in between each climb. Team 49, consisting of National Guardsmen Capt. Robert Killian with the Colorado Army National Guard and 1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar with the Wisconsin Army National Guard, set the course record with a time of 6 minutes, 32 seconds.
Night two finished up with a six-hour night orienteering course, which was the most challenging event, said Madiar. The long distance, time constraints and rough terrain made it the toughest event.
Day three consisted of water events. Competitors jumped from a helicopter into a pond, then swam 100-meters to shore followed by a water confidence course. Once completed, both National Guard teams were airlifted to start the timed leadership skills event where Team 50 (Madiar and Phillips) came out about two and a half minutes quicker then Team 49.
“When it came time, we did everything exactly the way we practiced and it worked out well for us,” said Phillips.
The final event of the day, which highlighted how well the two National Guard teams compared to the Active Duty teams, was the three-mile Buddy Run where Team 49 came in first and Team 50 in sixth place.
“All I was worried about was just finishing,” said Madiar. “We weren’t tracking the standings because they changed so much.”
The 10-week intense pre-training program leading up to the competition paid off for the Guardsmen. Team 50 was awarded third place overall for the competition, while team 49 came in fifth.
Madiar and Phillips both said they would like to compete again next year as long as they are partners.
“If it works out, we can capitalize on our success and come back a little stronger and smarter next year,” said Phillips.
Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy E. Beck, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team also contributed to this story.