JoshuasTravels — the 2004 Ranger Challenge competition

the 2004 Ranger Challenge competition

Written by . Posted at 9:35 am on October 20th, 2004

Ranger Challenge finished up Sunday, we wound up taking 3rd out of 27 teams. Believe me, those other two teams (from 30,000+ schools) preformed very, very well. It breaks down like this: Friday night we all shuffled into a large warehouse filled with long tables and plenty of fold out chairs. We completed both the written Land Navigation test (how to plot points on a grid, etc) and the patrolling exam (knowledge Infantry leaders would need to know in the field). Then it was back to the barracks for hygiene and lights out.

Unlike last year, we didn’t stay up late walking around the woods of Missouri on “patrol.” I was kind of disappointed (it really adds an endurance factor to the Challenge), but I didn’t complain. 4AM Saturday morning we were back on our feet, prepping for the 0500 APFT test. I did admirable well (another 296 70 push-ups, 78 sit-ups, 13:15 2mile), and our team average was around 295.

Changing from our Army workout uniforms to BDUs (the camouflaged fatigues with boots), we set off for the Hand Grenade Assault Course (HGAC). This is just what it sounds like throwing dummy grenades at dummy enemies. It’s a lot of fun and probably the least stressful of all the events. I didn’t do too well, but I enjoyed it.

We completed the practical Land Nav exercise next. It’s also what it sounds like running through the forest, map in hand, looking for these red and white posts that correspond to little dots on the map. We finished pretty well, but not as good as a few other teams. As we were being briefed, however, Major General Castro kind of wandered up from out of nowhere and asked if he could have a few words with us. I know I sound like a rookie, but I think it’s pretty cool that a two-star looked me in the eyes, shook my hand, and wished me good luck. Before then, the highest ranking officer I’d ever seen was a retired full colonel. If colonels talk to God, Major Generals are Archangels. I almost had bladder problems, it was so intense I couldn’t stop glancing at his rank insignia.

More info:

After that, M16 assembly/ disassembly was fairly simple the weapon was designed to be broken down fairly easily. You’re given a maximum of two minutes for combined tear-down and rebuild, but if you do themboth in under 45 seconds (and complete the necessary functions check correctly), you max the event. I maxed the event, making up for my earlier HGAC screw-up. That’s why we’re a team one person messes up,the team adapts. Then he does really well the next time, covering for someone else’s screw-up.

Our next event, the 1-rope bridge, is a real stinker. In under 20 minutes, we have to drop rucks, tie Swiss seats (very very uncomfortable rock-climbing harnesses constructed with a single rope), re-ruck, use some complicated knots to tie a longer rope between two poles, pull the rope really tight, tie it off, cross 7 soldiers infull battle rattle (weapon slung in-between our LCEs (the belt and shoulder-harness things) and our bodies, muzzle pointing downward), untie the complicated knots, lay out the rope completely flat (even one little loop is a 30 second penalty), and call “time.” Traditionally, we do really well at this event, so we stuck with traditions and finished in 8:11.

The last event is a real gut-checker. A 10K is tough enough in the hot Missouri heat, but things will really get interesting if you throw on BDUs, boots, weapons, 35-40lbs rucks and a slightly unreasonable Team Captain. We finished in 71 minutes, faster than any other team at the Ranger Challenge. Of all things, I’m most proud of that. 71 minutes is an incredible pace, especially after a full day of taxing events.

You’re already mentally and physically exhausted by the start of the Road March. Around the first mile, you’ll start to cramp, but keep running. You have to block out everything else and run when they say run and stride-out when they say stride. There were a few winter swim practices where I thought I’d been tired before, but this was the fatigue beyond all the fatigue and second winds. I bottomed out my endorphins cache with two miles to go. It was pain slightly worse than childbirth, but it was worth it. We cowboyed up.

So while we did only make 3rd place, we did very well. If you would’ve told me Thursday that our performance Saturday wouldn’t have won us first place, I would not have believed you. We’re disappointed we didn’t win, but we’re satisfied with our efforts. We left if all out on Mogadishu Mile (that last 1600meters of the 10K) and there’s nothing we could’ve done harder or smarter of faster. We did our best.

Josh Fenton

PS Our football team is pathetic. We lost 42-0 last weekend, solidifying our winless season

PPS- Ranger Challenge pictures and an Australia update will be sent along before long

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let's lose charley