FORT HOOD — Ten Fort Hood soldiers who earned the right to wear the Ranger tab are now training to earn the title of the Army’s Best Ranger.
Scheduled to begin April 12 at Fort Benning, Ga., the three-day competition tests the Ranger and soldier skills of two-man teams from across the Army.
“Ranger School is really about just getting through it. This is more,” said 1st Lt. Dave Linder, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment.
He and 1st Lt. Steve Demetriou are one of two teams from the regiment and are training full time to represent the unit.
The two said they will work out for up to six hours on some days and are on strict diets to get themselves physically prepared for whatever the competition holds.
“If we keep ourselves physically fit, we’ll get through it,” Linder said. “I wanted to do it because it’s definitely a way to better myself and see how far I can go. Why not do it?”
Only about 60 percent of teams finish the competition, now in its 30th year, and some of the past events include distance running, airborne operations, rifle and machine gun marksmanship, military knots and hands-on Ranger skills tests.
Teams can be tested on anything in the Ranger handbook and are pushed mentally, physically and emotionally.
“I think the unknown is the worst,” Demetriou said. “We are both junior officers so we have been working with (noncommissioned officers) and senior guys, because we lack the technical experience.”
To help prepare the teams, III Corps provided resources and a coach through its training facilities such as the Medical Simulation Training Center and the Air Assault School.
Spc. Brett Beeson, a medic with the 81st Civil Affairs Battalion, 85th Civil Affairs Brigade, has been teaching the medical skills required for the competition.
“There’s a standard and they have to stick to that to the T,” he said. “There’s proper technique and proper steps, and we have to make sure every movement they do is exactly what needs to be done.”
Attention to detail is always big in the Army, said Staff Sgt. Ed Mullin, an Air Assault instructor serving as coach for the teams from III Corps. A team from First Army Division West coordinates with him for training as well.
“If you’re not the strongest and fastest, you’ll still be able to complete the task,” Mullin said.
He described the competition as physically, mentally and emotionally challenging.
“It definitely tests every aspect of the human body,” Mullin said. “For them to finish is a tough task. … If you win, you are ready for anything.”
‘A long journey’
To select teams, some units just looked for volunteers, while others, such as Division West, hosted internal competitions to select the team to best represent it.
Grant Flynn and Andrew Sidwell, both captains with 1st Battalion, 393rd Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, are the only team to represent all of First Army. They earned the chance during a competition held in early December.
“It’s been a long journey,” Flynn said. “Our biggest focus is not getting hurt or healing from existing injuries.”
Capt. Larry McNamara, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, competed last year, but his team didn’t finish because of an injury. This year, it’s about unfinished business, and he said he’s looking for a top 10 finish.
Seeing the competition allowed McNamara some insight for preparation, and he’s changed up his training plan. Last time he did too much ruck marching.
“We’ve decided to go for speed instead of distance,” McNamara said.
Unlike the team from 3rd Cavalry Regiment, he said he is training around his job.
“They’ve been supportive and allowed me to train as much as I need to, but I still have a mission,” he said.
For the past three years, teams from the U.S. Special Operations Command have won the competition, but Mullin said Fort Hood had two teams finish last year.
Flynn said competing is also a way to show young soldiers that reaching such difficult goals is possible.
“I think it’s important to say to other soldiers, ‘If you think you want to do something like this, start training up through little bits of discipline every day. When the opportunity comes, jump on it,’” he said. “If you’re disciplined every day and stick with it, then great things can happen. Amazing things can happen. This is a great opportunity.”
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.