Tymothy Boyle and Joshua Corson, both captains in the 75th Ranger Regiment, cross the finish line of the final event. The pair beat 50 other teams from across the Army to win the annual three-day competition. Photo by Noelle Wiehe/Coffee or Die Magazine.
08-10 April 2022 | Fort Benning, Georgia
The morning was colder than expected at Camp Rogers on Fort Benning, Georgia, but that didn’t deter veterans, sponsors, and media from gathering at the starting line next to the Ranger-qualified volunteers who had been training for months for this event.
It was Friday, April 8, and temperatures had been in the 80s in the days leading up to this moment, but the morning of the kickoff called for layers as temperatures floated in the lower 40s.
With the crack of a pistol, 102 competitors stepped off for the 2022 Best Ranger Competition hours before sunrise. Only 16 two-man teams remained by Sunday’s final event.
Those who crossed the finish line had competed for 58 hours (receiving no more than four hours of sleep over three days) while facing three obstacle courses, traveling 60 miles by foot, firing 13 weapons, treating and evacuating multiple “casualties,” and plunging three times (by zip line, ropes, and helicopter) into the 49-degree water of Fort Benning’s Victory Pond.
“The Ranger buddy team is probably the most powerful Army organization,” said retired Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr., the competition’s namesake, who fought in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War during his storied Ranger career. “And this competition will begin with the Ranger buddy team — American Spartans — lined up and ready to go with great, great sounds of music.”
First Lt. Benjamin Pritchett, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Team 26, negotiates an obstacle at the Malvesti Obstacle Course, April 9, 2022. Photo by Noelle Wiehe/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Their first task was a functional fitness workout. From there, they ran from the Malvesti Obstacle Course to Victory Pond for a run, swim, run event. The 51 teams pushed through bone-chilling temperatures as they jumped into Victory Pond, which Ranger instructors from the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade had determined was more than warm enough for the competitors to swim in.
The Rangers returned to Malvesti to complete the obstacle course. They climbed tall structures, trudged through water and under barbed wire, swung from monkey bars, weaved through wooden bars, and met at the finish sign where they were handed Lysol wipes.
Why the wipes?
“To disinfect. Malvesti is kind of gross,” said a soldier set up on the route to help with the competition.
At Victory Pond, 1st Lt. Michael Singer, 101st Airborne Division, Team 19, swims with his teammate, 1st Lt. Matthew McKenzie, as a UH-60 Black Hawk drops another team into the water, April 10, 2022. Photo by Noelle Wiehe/Coffee or Die Magazine.
With clean hands and soaking wet uniforms, they continued to Todd Field, where for the first time in competition history, the Rangers performed the events of the new Army Combat Fitness Test. After a fleeting moment to catch their breath and stand by a campfire for warmth, it was on to the Urban Assault Course at Selby Range.
Then came marksmanship at the Malone Ranges, the infamous Darby Queen Obstacle Course, and a ruck march to end Day One.
The leading team finished the 19-mile overnight march from Day One into Day Two, with 35-pound rucks, in a time of roughly three and a half hours — 20 minutes faster than the second-place team.
Though most Best Ranger events test relatively basic skills, the cumulative effect of the competition makes each stage more difficult than the last. By the time the soldiers started Day Two, competitors had traveled 40 miles, said Col. Antwan Dunmyer, the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade commander. Teams had a long run and the overnight ruck, with the Darby Queen sandwiched in between.
“All the physical stuff yesterday was really challenging,” said Team 23’s Staff Sgt. Joshua Abrahante during a moment of rest. He was representing the 3rd US Infantry Regiment — known as the Old Guard — in the competition. “Everybody’s still tired from yesterday, so hopefully today’s skills is anybody’s game.”
Soldiers compete in the annual Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia. Photo by Noelle Wiehe/Coffee or Die Magazine
Abrahante and his teammate, 1st Lt. Eric Savini, were in 12th place after the ruck march, which was enough to get them into Day Two. If they could hold that position or move up, they’d secure their spot on Day Three.
“That’s how it goes throughout the rest of the competition,” Abrahante said. “That’s what makes it fun.”
Day Two included six events on Todd Field and one shooting event on Krilling Range. Field events included a grenade assault course, tying military knots, demonstrating proficiency with high-frequency radios, 81mm mortar employment, demolition skills, a combat medical drill, and a memory game — no easy task in a tired and sleep-deprived state. At the range, soldiers competed in a three-gun stress shoot.
Another twist came with the “mystery event,” which was an escape room-style memory test. According to Capt. Shawn Gardner with the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, competitors had to decode a series of numbers using Culper Code and a key that told what the numbers related to.
Participants vie to complete the Best Ranger Competition on Aug. 10, 2022, in Fort Benning, Georgia. Photo by Noelle Wiehe/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Gardner said the event served two purposes: to test competitors’ knowledge of Ranger history, and to test their cognitive ability to think through and understand what they need to do to solve a problem in a stressed state. The situation is historically accurate to what soldiers would have to do during the Revolutionary War, he told The Forward Observer.
At the start of Day Two, Team 33’s Sgt. Nathan Buck and Sgt. Enrique Caballero were in first place, while Team 37’s Capt. Tymothy Boyle and Capt. Joshua Corson were right behind in second place out of the 28 teams remaining. The top four teams all hailed from the 75th Ranger Regiment.
The final day of the competition started early at the Warrior Training Center’s obstacle course. Teams received no more than a couple of hours of sleep each night between events that included rappelling from one of the country’s tallest towers, scenario-based shooting, and a Ranger first responder event in which teams treated a simulated injured casualty and packaged them for hoisting into a Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter on Babbit Drop Zone. Teams also created rafts from ponchos and rucksacks for a combat water survival assessment on Victory Pond. That event included both a zip line into the water and a plunge from a Black Hawk into the still-cold pond.
Competitors battle it out at the Best Ranger Competition on April 10, 2022, in Fort Benning, Georgia. Photo by Noelle Weihe/Coffee or Die Magazine.
The 2022 Best Ranger Competition concluded Sunday with a 3.5-mile buddy run, as each team carried rifles in hand across the finish line at the National Infantry Museum. Corson and Boyle from the 75th Ranger Regiment won the competition, just edging out Buck and Caballero.
“As I think about what you have endured during the three-day gut check, I can guarantee there were times you compared it to a moment during your 61 days or more Ranger School experience, as many of us do when we face adversity, and it instantly lifted your belief in yourself and your teammate and fueled your drive forward. Easy day,” said Dunmyer, the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade commander, at the awards ceremony April 11 at Marshall Auditorium.
“The 2023 Best Ranger competition begins today,” Gen. Michael X. Garrett, commanding general of US Army Forces Command, said at the ceremony. “And I’m counting on you to make it an even tougher competition by setting up an even stronger field of winners. And I hope many of you will be among them. Because I know you’ll use this year’s lessons to train harder, longer and smarter.”
This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 print edition of The Forward Observer, a special publication from Coffee or Die Magazine, as "Batt Boys Sweep."
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Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.
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