2010 - EPISODE 2:
42 teams march into the darkness on a course of unknown length.
Fort Benning, Georgia, the 27th Best Ranger Competition. The starting point: Camp Rogers. It’s dawn and we’re ready to start the first event: the Buddy Run. Eighty-four qualified Rangers make up the 42 two-man teams, ready to tackle the opening event and their nerves.
Sergeant First Class Chad Stackpole: It’s an unknown distance Buddy Run where these guys have absolutely no idea how far they’re gonna have to run. They have to take into account the weather, how they’re currently feeling; they have to watch their bodies, and the biggest thing is they have to watch their partner’s body.
Historically, the run has been 3.5 to 5 miles but no one knows for sure.
[Count off: “Five, four, three, two, one.”]
[Cheering and clapping]
Each competitor must wear a 22-pound Outer Tactical Vest, or OTV, a hydration unit, and perhaps the biggest challenge, the two-man teams must stay within an arm’s length of each other. Maintaining control over your nerves is critical. The instinct is to go out strong, but that’s a high risk gamble with the unknown.
Stackpole: The biggest thing is just to set a pace and run that pace for the entire competition. If those guys can maintain that competition throughout the entire weekend, they will be within the top five teams. The teams that usually come out and push real hard from the first events never make it to the road march the first night.
With the temperature soaring and the humidity hovering around 6o percent, the physical punishment has already claimed its first team.
Ranger: He may have over hydrated. His core temp is like 106 right now, probably from wearing body armor and I don’t know what else.
Exchanging their tactical vests for life preservers, the teams attack the water, combat boots and all, faced with a 200-meter swim across Victory Pond, not quite sure what awaits on the other side.
Captain Aaron Chonko: We knew it was a 200-meter swim with all our equipment on. It was a positive getting in the water, it was cooler, cools you off a little bit, but then when you got out, and you had to continue that 5 miles, we were soaking wet, we got wet boots and wet uniform.
This year the Buddy Run is a grueling 7.2 miles, longer than any Best Ranger Competition starting event in history. Exiting Victory Pond, the competitors have covered 3.3 miles and have yet to reach the halfway point. The last few miles of the Buddy Run heads off pavement and tracks through the woods. The teams are strung out over the course and finally hit the finish line after a 7.2-mile run and a 200-meter swim.
CSM Dennis Smith: Mentally, these guys are challenged right now. I think it’s a little bit harder than what they first expected. You know, they understand it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It’s working out real good; the guys are starting to have to use their brain and their body.
In order to finish, the teams immediately begin the Urban Obstacle Course where they must complete a 150-pound liter carry, 2 building climbs, 2 wall climbs, a jerrycan carry and transfer over a 10-foot wall and then cross the finish line.
Team 15, Santiago and Rippey, are in sixth place after the Buddy Run, and after only a few minutes rest and a chance to rehydrate, take off through the Urban Obstacle Course.
Off they go with the 150-pound liter carry.
The first building climb is with a traditional knotted rope.
Now Santiago and Rippey navigate the second building climb.
First, the 8-foot cinder block wall and then the four-footer. By the time they hit the jerrycan carry, fatigue is becoming a factor. Full jerrycans weigh roughly 42-pounds each. Sergeant First Class Rippey is feeling the effects, possibly from overhydrating. Maintaining that balance under such adverse conditions is down to a science.
Clearing the finish line, Team 15 maintains their sixth-place position.
Time to regroup quickly. Up next, a two-mile smoke fest and the aptly named Stress Shoot.
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