The Army’s Best Ranger Competition is a grueling three-day event that puts the Army’s top performing soldiers to the test. This year, 56 pairs of highly trained soldiers from across the Army competed in the 39th annual competition at Fort Benning, Georgia. The competition challenges soldiers on various tasks that troops could face in the line of duty, while punishing their bodies with brutal workloads.
Over the course of the event, the teams were cut down to 16 finishers. The top finishers this year were Capt. Luke Ebeling and Spc. Justin Rein of the 75th Ranger Regiment. This marks the third consecutive victory for the elite special operations unit. The winning team survived 32 events designed to test their physical and mental limits, operating on little sleep and food as they conducted operations during the day and overnight.
“It tests everything. It’s what you can do with your mind, your hands, and your weapons better than the others. The competition’s subject is “what we’re really trying to test,” according to Col. Chris Hammonds, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning, which is hosting the event.
The daytime aspects of the tournament are difficult, but the nighttime challenges—a long march on the first night and a land navigation course on the second night—are what set the contestants apart the top finishers from the pack. “You can’t really win it during those two pieces, but you can definitely lose the competition on those two events,” said Sgt. Maj. Thomas Payne, an Army special operator who won the Best Ranger Competition in 2012.
The competition’s champions, Ebeling and Rein, took the lead on the opening day and maintained it for the whole of the event. The second and third-place teams, respectively, were from the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning and the 2nd Cavalry Regiment from Vilseck, Germany.
What is unique about this year’s competition is that it was held in a public setting in Columbus, Georgia, for the first time. The tournament moved from the fort’s confined installation to A.J. downtown Columbus’s riverwalk and McClung Memorial Stadium. The event was an opportunity for the local community to see the technical and tactical expertise of the soldiers that the Army has to offer.
“It’s giving them some access and exposure that they wouldn’t have otherwise to see the best of the best of our soldiers,” said Hammond.
The Best Ranger Competition is an event that challenges soldiers on all fronts, both physically and mentally. It tests their ability to adapt and overcome any obstacle that they may face. The winners of this year’s competition, Ebeling and Rein, are true examples of what it takes to be a top-performing soldier in the Army.