2009 EPISODE 12 of 12: CANOE EVENT
In the final two events Soldiers will have to canoe down a river then complete the final Buddy Run.
As these warriors wind up the Water Confidence Course, Stackpole and Simms have been able to hold on to a slim lead over the next four teams. From here the remaining teams transition to an LZ and an awaiting helo. 54 hours down and just two events left, the Rangers get a short rest flying up the Chattahoochee to the starting point of the canoe event. Starting at Rotary Park in downtown Columbus, Georgia, the Ranger buddies will paddle 9.5-miles down the Chattahoochee River to the finish line.
SFC Hutchings: "This is a teamwork stress event, they're beat down, they've been through a whole lot and the past couple of days, and it's just salt in the wound at this point. It's very stressful on them, it's all upper-body for a good hour-and-a-half."
Team 22 doesn't have many chances left to overtake Stackpole and Simms.
MSG Walter J. Zajkowski: "Keep the pressure on the leaders and see if we can get them to bobble. If they make a slip, there's a chance we could pull into the lead, but if they keep performing the way they have been they'll have it locked down. They're a good team, really good team."
Stackpole and Simms are able to finish ahead of Zajkowski and Jenkins to maintain their lead. At this point, every second counts with only one event to go. It's obvious that 58 hours of nonstop competition has taken its toll on the field.
SFC Chad E.W. Stackpole: "My body feels bad but mentally I'm good, the end is near. This is all mental."
With just one event to go the mental focus of these Rangers is paramount to finishing.
SFC Chad E.W. Stackpole: "Major focuses going on-a difference in focuses. You've got teams that are literally here, they just want to make this next Buddy Run and finish it. And hopefully when it comes to the final points standing this evening, we're the ones holding the pistols."
From the start Team 21 and 22 have battled for the lead. Now, the final event in the 59th hour of the 2009 Best Ranger competition is a 3.5-mile Buddy Run. For some it's personal pride, and for one team Ranger glory.
CSM John Burns: "The biggest thing about being a Ranger is that you learn over the course of the school just how capable you are given the hardships you're put through. And that's what we do for sixty-one days."
As the remaining teams press-on through the midday heat they will have 3.5 miles to reflect on this years' competition. Because less than 59 hours ago 98 Rangers set out in pursuit of Ranger glory. Running into the unknown these Rangers were willing to give everything they had for the chance of being the twenty-sixth Ranger two-man team to be added to the Best Ranger trophy.
These Rangers attacked the Darby Queen-one of the toughest obstacle course on any military instillation. Covering more than 60 miles with a 55-pound rucksack on their back. Continually testing their advanced combat skills across multiple ranges. They were challenged with eight different weapons systems with targets up to 800 meters and more than 500 rounds of ammunition. They were called upon twice to perform advanced life-saving skills under simulated combat conditions. They jumped from helicopters and then swam 500 meters to shore. And marched all night long until they were told to stop. Always facing the unknown at every turn.
"The guys that come in here and do well their first year, hats off to them for just coming into this event blind and just being that great of Ranger to come in here and execute all those tasks. Until you just get boots on the ground and start executing that event you really don't know what to expect because at any given time in this competition your body could just physically shut down on an event. Even though you're fairly strong at that day-in and day-out at your job."
At the end of the third and final day, the remaining Rangers are challenged one last time in an all-out final race to the finish.
SFC Chad E.W. Stackpole: "Team 22 has pushed us, pushed us and pushed us. I expect it to be a battle, without a doubt. It's going to be, it'll be a sprint to the finish. It'll be a, we?ll both push hard, and we?ll run probably about an eighty percent pace all the way up to about 200-300 meters before the finish then it's going to be an outright flat sprint battle."
The Ranger team of Zajkowski and Jenkins put all they had into the final run. But it wasn't enough. So after 59 hours of continuous competition only 26 of the original 49 teams finish the event. In fifth place: Team 31, Staff Sergeants Antia and Mutchie. In fourth place: Team 8, Staff Sergeants Farmer and McDowell. In third place: Team 7, Sergeants Malchow and Collins. In second place: Team 22, Master Sergeants Zajkowski and Jenkins. And the winners of the 2009 Best Ranger Competition: Sergeants First Class Chad Stackpole and Blake Simms.
Team 21 Stackpole and Simms is the first team in 26 years to win in all three major disciplines of the Best Ranger Competition. Congratulations Team 21.
SFC Chad E.W. Stackpole: "We're just glad that we're here, it's surreal, all the competitors are really happy. It was just a great field this year."
MSG Daniel E. Jenkins: "Those guys earned it, they came out here and did everything right, they brought their A-game and I commend them for it."
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