• sgilpat

2019 Best Ranger Competition

I hate to live in the past.... but... The annual Best Ranger Competition is the one time every year I'll look back at my 25 years in the Army as a Ranger and former competitor with fond memories. I went out to Todd Field on Ft. Benning to catch the day 2 action at the 2019 competition and take some pictures before I went for a mountain bike ride. I had to work that night so I only had a few hours. Being on a mountain bike was the best option for getting around quick.

The pain of staying awake and starving yourself for 3 days, while doing strenuous activity is intoxicating (to me anyways). I competed several times (knowing I'd likely never win). I just wanted to hurt, compete and finish. It's amazing what the mind and body can accomplish when they work together. Enduring pain and accomplishing physical and mental tasks during extreme events just as much mental as it is what you've done to prepare your body physically. Can you get your head in that place and stay there for 3 days without being distracted or feeling sorry for yourself or quitting? Can you do all of this with another person? Best Ranger is a Team event. Being a Ranger is about the team and collective efforts to achieve amazing results. You have to fit physically and mentally with another person or you won't do well.

Pain comes with every movement of every muscle fiber in your body, always stretching something. Halfway through the Best Ranger Competition (if you make it this far) you sit out in the sun and move from station to station doing physical and mental Ranger tasks. The night prior was a 20+ mile foot march carrying 55+ pounds of shit on your back. Day 2 you climb high towers, tie knots, do exercises... the list goes on. After all of this is another long land navigation course at night, with your 55+ pounds of shit, probably farther than the foot march. Throughout the competition you're corralled away from spectators and family; and they don't tell you how you're doing compared to the other competitors. It's the ultimate mindfuck.

Competing in the Best Ranger Competition is a selfish endeavor. Preparation for most teams start at least 6 months prior. It's just more time away from your family in an overworked and constantly deployed Army. Families, especially the wives, go all out for their competitors. Being an Army wife is already hard enough

A Best Ranger competitor's wife already puts up with his shit, takes care of the kids, maybe has her own career. Now you're doing this ? They're gonna drag your kids all over Ft. Benning, with all of the family that came into town to support you. They will cheer you on and worry about you... for what? So you can get all of the accolades for finishing ? Thats love. My wife did it 2 years in a row, we had 2 small kids and a gaggle of family. She's a badass and I am forever grateful to her for what she endured. Not to mention the 10 combat deployments and 20 years of moving our shit all over the country.

The kids seem to enjoy, lots of stuff to climb on.

Heroes gathered in their masses. On the left is CSM(R) Don Purdy and right is CSM Rick Merritt. Both are bonafide war heroes and mentors to all present day Rangers. They are the mold for the hard as a rock Ranger Non-Commissioned Officer. I was honored to work with both (and get yelled at by both) throughout my career and they truly led by example.

Pictured above with CSM Merritt is MAJ (R) Marc Messerschmitt. Marc was a Non-Commissioned Officer turned Commissioned Officer and winner of the 2000 Best Ranger Competition.

This is Shane Jernigan. I was honored to serve with him in the Ranger Regiment and at the Ranger Training Brigade. We competed together (on separate teams) in the Best Ranger Competition and after he pretty much ruined all of his joints he was medically retired from the Army. Here he is with his new prosthetic leg, his natural leg was so fucked from repeated injury he had it electively amputated. I know a few guys who went this route as repeated surgeries on beat down joints tend to just make things worse. Shane gave a lot to the Army as a Ranger and still gives today a big sponsor of the competition.

History and understanding the legacy of Army Rangers is a big part of the Best Ranger Competition. Each event is based on Ranger History and events during wartime that highlight why Rangers are superior Soldiers and human beings.

I am so proud to have been part of this family. I don't fit the stereotype of a retired Ranger. I don't own a bunch of guns, drive a big truck or even own any of the T-shirts. I do however live my life as best I can by the Ranger Creed. I try to be the best at everything I attempt and set the example for others to follow in everything I do. My many years as an Army Ranger certainly shaped me into the person I am today. I rode off of Todd Field for a quick gravel ride, before an overnight shift in the ER, feeling pretty damn good.


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