FORT BLISS, Texas – U.S. Army Rangers are among the most well-trained soldiers in the world. And to find the best of the best, the Ranger school, at Fort Benning, hosts an annual competition to find the best Ranger “buddy” team. This year, to prepare for that competition, 1st Armored Division hosted the inaugural Fort Bliss Best Ranger Competition.
The competition was conducted over three days, where the Rangers were put through a variety of tasks that will challenge them mentally and physically. Some of the events included a physical fitness test, obstacle course and a “buddy run.” Historically, more than 60 percent of the teams do not finish the competition.
All Rangers stationed at Fort Bliss were invited to compete in a pre-BRC to determine the best two buddy teams on the installation. Starting Jan. 15, five ranger qualified soldiers began the competition with the Ranger physical fitness test, then progressed through three demanding days with little sleep or food.
“The personnel who compete in the Best Ranger competition are world-class athletes,” said Master Sgt. David Sanchez, interim operations sergeant major for 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division and organizer of the BRC here at Fort Bliss.
“They stay in great condition throughout the year.”
Day one for the competitors began at 5:30 a.m. to take the RPFT. They then proceeded through a knot tying station, a climb called a “Prusik” climb and an obstacle course. They finished out the day with a combat stress shoot.
Day two was mentioned by all competitors as the most stressful of the three days. The competitors spent more than eight hours conducting land navigation before spending several more hours complete a series of Ranger common tasks and then finishing the day with a 12 mile road march.
Day three started with a Combat Water Survival Assessment at the Replica Aquatic Center on historic Fort Bliss and finished with a three mile “Buddy Run” in front of 1st Armored Division headquarters.
“Any of the events, if you look at them individually, don’t sound very taxing, but it’s when you combine the events when the fatigue starts to set in,” said Capt. Patrick Mitchell, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
The top two finishers, 1st Lt. Martin Jimenez, 4th Brigade Combat Team and Master Sgt. Robert Usnick, special operation recruiter, will be the primary team competing for Fort Bliss at the Army BRC in April.
“I’m excited,” said Jimenez, the top finisher in the competition. “I’ve wanted to do this for quite a while.”
The other three competitors, 2nd Lt. Joshua Labelle, 1st Battalion, 25th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and Sgt 1st Class Thomas Gee, 1st Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team and Mitchell, will be the alternates for the Fort Bliss team going to the Army BRC.
“We will start putting together our plan as soon as possible, to make sure we put our best foot forward,” Usnick said.
The first Best Ranger competition was held in July, 1981, as a “Range Olympics”. The first two competitions were conducted between the three Ranger Department base camps, Fort Benning, Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Lewis, Wash. In 1984 the competition was expanded to include Rangers throughout the Army.
While the Fort Bliss BRC has been concluded and the team has been set, the training will continue going forward toward Fort Benning and the Army BRC. All five members of the team will continue to work together to correct weaknesses and strengthen the team. If everything goes as planned, it will be Fort Bliss and 1st Armored Division leading the way!