News: Wisconsin Guard soldier a top finisher in 2013 Best Ranger Competition
Story by Vaughn Larson
FORT BENNING, Ga. — Two Army National Guard soldiers, including one from Wisconsin, finished in the top 10 in the 30th Annual David E. Grange, Jr. Best Ranger Competition.
1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar, a member of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, and 1st Lt. Travis Cornwall of the Georgia Army National Guard, finished in seventh place following a grueling 60-hour competition. Their team — Team 49 — surged to first place after the opening events April 12 and held the top spot through the end of the first day of what is regarded as the Army Ranger Olympics.
"Being in first is always a great position to be in, but we all know that this is a three-day competition," Plocar said. "It doesn't matter where you are on the first day — it only matters on the last."
Team 49 saw its fortunes change on Day Two, falling to third place, and eventually to ninth.
"Our drop from third to ninth was due to the day states events," Plocar explained. "We made a couple of mistakes on the weapons and prusik climb, and the other teams had obviously spent many hours on these tasks and it showed. Many of the [Ranger Training] regiment teams pulled ahead of us during the day stakes."
The team powered through the final events on Day Three to capture seventh place, finishing in the midst of active-duty Ranger and Special Operations Command teams.
"We moved into seventh after having a great final day," Plocar said. "We both looked at each other Sunday morning and said we need to put yesterday behind us and concentrate on the task at hand. We performed well in all of the events on day three.
"You always want to improve on the year before," he continued. "The competition this year was very strong — everyone there was very talented and very physically fit. So a seventh place finish comes with mixed emotions and leaves a burning fuel that means we must work even harder if we are ever going to win."
Plocar said representing the Army National Guard and showing the caliber of National Guard soldiers was the best aspect of the competition. Two Army National Guard teams began the competition. However, the other National Guard team — Team 50, consisting of 1st Lt. Jose Moreno and Sgt. Erich Friedlein — was among the 25 teams that did not advance following the night stakes event Friday night/Saturday morning.
Plocar said the worst part of the three-day competition was either the difficult water entry during the water confidence event on day three, or the night ruck march on day one.
"The weight was so heavy and it seemed to go on forever," he recalled. "My knee still hurts today (April 19)."
Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, assistant adjutant general for Army, congratulated Plocar.
"We are extremely proud of 1st Lt. Plocar's achievement yet again in demonstrating his resolve to excel in the Best Ranger Competition," Anderson said, noting that Plocar also participated in last year's Best Ranger Competition. "This high-intensity annual event pits the best U.S. Army Rangers against each other, and 1st Lt. Plocar's personal dedication, professionalism and commitment to excellence are reflected in finishing very high in the standings."
During the "Super Supper" meal following the final event, Col. Kyle Lear — commander of the Ranger Training Brigade — attested to the significance of competing and completing the Ranger gauntlet.
"Less than one percent of our Army soldiers are Ranger qualified," Lear said. "And the 24 teams in front of you today represent the absolute best of that one percent. These competitors, along with the rest of the Army's Rangers, represent the heart of the Warrior Spirit that makes our Army and our Joint Forces the absolute best in the world."
Plocar said anybody can become a Ranger with time and dedication.
"Not everyone wants to become a Ranger, but everyone has goals," Plocar said. "Leading by example is the best way to motivate other soldiers, and I hope this will rub off on every person I meet."