I’ll post the winners of this year’s Best Ranger Competition ASAP, -Jack

Shortly before dawn today, 50 Army Ranger teams from around the world will be mentally and physically challenged for the next three days during the 29th annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition.

“We aren’t just making it for them to ease into anything,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Dean, a spokesman for the Ranger Training Brigade. “We are going to come in from the beginning and give everything they got right out of the gate.”

In consecutive events for 60 grueling hours, two-man Ranger teams will compete in firing weapons, marching with gear for miles, taking part in land navigation exercises and other timed events. The exercises are aimed at testing Rangers physical conditioning, skills and team strategies to determine the best team in the Army.

This year’s competition will be as tough as ever with plenty of running and moving, Dean said. For the first time in the event, there will be some 60mm mortar firing at a range and fast roping from Black Hawk helicopters on York Field near McGinnis-Wickam Hall. “Everybody likes to come out and see explosions down range,” he said.

The three-day event has been compared to the Ironman triathlon or Eco-Challenge adventure race competitions. With little time for rest and food, each team member will cover some 60 miles on foot during the competition.

Last year, 50 teams started the competition but only 31 finished. On the first day of the competition, 16 teams were lost to a 12-mile road march and night orienteering course.

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Established in 1982, the event is named in honor of Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr., a former Ranger instructor and department director who served in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars. Grange is expected to attend the competition, which wasn’t held in 2003 and 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, a post spokesman said.

An estimated crowd of as many as 1,000 spectators is expected at the opening ceremony when the event starts at 6 a.m. at Camp Rogers.