FORT BENNING, Ga. - Three months of intense pre-training came to a close for Staff Sgt. Matthew Madiar, of Chicago, as the demanding three-day David E. Grange, Jr. Best Ranger Competition began April 15, at Fort Benning, Ga.
Madiar, with the Illinois Army National Guard’s Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment in Aurora, spent many hours preparing for the competition with teammate 2nd Lt. Andrew Burns from the Indiana National Guard’s Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment in Gary, Ind.
“We essentially trained on all aspects that were historically present in previous competitions,” said Madiar. “We monitored our progress and kept making improvements week to week.”
This year is the first year the Illinois National Guard had a soldier qualify and compete in the Best Ranger Competition. Teams were chosen on perceived ability by the National Guard training coach, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Hoffnagle with the Warrior Training Center at Ft. Benning.
Soldiers began the competition with a three-mile buddy run, followed by an approximate nine-mile road march, an eight-mile canoeing event, machine gun firing, a three and one half-mile ruck run, firing at the M4 moving target range and eventually day orienteering.
Among the crowd of spectators were Madiar’s wife Cathy, his parents, his troop commander and fellow soldiers from Troop C, cheering team No. 23 on.
Both competitors said the most challenging event of the day was canoeing.
“We didn’t practice it while we were here, but both of us had experience and did not anticipate it being a problem,” said Madiar. “But because of the weight of the rucks, the balance threw us off and it was after the ruck march, which made it more difficult.”
Nearing the end of day orienteering, Burns collapsed from physical exhaustion and dehydration, eliminating the team from the competition.
“Madiar was definitely the stronger of us two,” said Burns. “If he had a stronger partner, there is no doubt that he would have finished the competition with no problem at all.”
Three teams represented the Army National Guard with the remainder being all from Active Duty components. Sgt. Maj. Walter Zajkowski and Master Sgt. Eric Turk, team No. 8 from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Ft. Bragg, N.C., took first place. Thirty-one of the 50 teams completed the taxing competition.
“I have every intention of coming back and doing this again next year,” said Madiar. “Ideally we will have more soldiers from Illinois come down for the assessment and can have a team of two Illinois Guard Soldiers compete next year.”
The Best Ranger Competition is only open to Ranger qualified soldiers. Since 2003, five out of six soldiers from Troop C graduated on the first attempt at Ranger school. Madiar completed Ranger school in September 2010 and received the Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Kelso Enlisted Leadership Award.
“Leadership qualities gained from Ranger school are invaluable to helping soldiers be combat effective,” said Capt. Adam Malaty-Uhr, of Naperville, commander of Troop C. “Seeing the level of complexity at this competition, our troop could definitely field one team to be competitive next year, to include Madiar.”