The best of the best, from all across the military, come together for what is known as the Best Ranger Competition. This grueling three-day competition is not for the weak of heart by any means. It is a feat even to finish the competition, let alone to win it.

The competition tests teams of Ranger School graduates on a wide range of skills.

The Best Ranger Competition 2021 was the 37th iteration of this grueling competition. The Best Ranger Competition was started in 1982 by Dick Leandri, who found a way to honor his personal friend, LTG David E. Grange, Jr.

The competition was initially created to determine the best two-person “buddy” team in the Ranger Department at Fort Benning. Nevertheless, over the following years, it has evolved. Currently, it determines the best two-person team from the entire United States Armed Forces. Each year the competition is reviewed and tweaked.

1st. Lt. Vince Paikowski and 1st Lt. Alastair Keys, assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment, cross the finish line of the final buddy run at Freedom Hall, Fort Benning, GA, on April 17, 2021. (Photo by Henry Villarama/U.S. Army)

This year, 1st. Lt. Vince Paikowski and 1st. Lt. Alastair Keys representing the 75th Ranger Regiment, finished on the top of the competition. They earned the honor to be called Best Rangers. They triumphed over 53 teams.

Vince Paikowski has spent his entire career at 75th Ranger Regiment after graduating from the Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is currently a company Executive Officer in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Alastair Keys graduated from the University of Wisconsin where he played lacrosse. He has, likewise, been with the 75th ranger Regiment for his entire career.

This Ranger Competition Is Not for the Faint of Heart

For three nearly nonstop days, some of the Army’s most-skilled soldiers overcame a lack of sleep to tough out challenging obstacle courses, miles-long runs and marches, and weapons and tactics challenges. They moved some 75 miles across Fort Benning for a chance at the title of Best Ranger.

The Best Ranger Competition returned to the Army post in Georgia last week after a rare cancelation in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Only on two other occasions was the competition not held: once for Desert Storm and again for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“It’s really a testament to what these individuals do in Ranger School – limited sleep, limited food, moving long distances with different amounts of poundage on your back,” said Col. Antwan Dunmyer, the commander of Fort Benning’s Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, which hosts the competition.

“Just strenuous activity that is mentally and physically draining – to include having to execute various technical and tactical skills along the way. I mean, this is the Super Bowl for the Army right here. This is the Super Bowl for Rangers.”

The competition began this past Friday with a predawn nine-mile run. It ended on Sunday afternoon with a final buddy run that saw Rangers 1st Lt. Vince Paikowski and 1st Lt. Alastair Keys cross the finish line first.

In between those runs, competitors navigated a series of obstacle courses, an urban-assault course, eight marksmanship events with various firearms, and a combat-fitness test. Additionally, they undertook swims across Victory Pond, a nighttime land navigation course, and fast-rope jumps out of helicopters.

“That’s what we ask our young Rangers to be able to do, [and] to be able to train young soldiers to be able to do this successfully in combat,” Dunmyer said. “I mean, everything we see within the Best Ranger competition is what we would do at some point in combat.”

The last time the 75th Ranger Regiment won was in 2017 when Capt. Michael Rose and Master Sgt. Josh Horsager were crowned Best Rangers.