The 2023 Army Best Ranger Competition wrapped up this weekend, with a team from the 75th Ranger Regiment taking home the title for the third year in a row. Captain Luke Ebeling and Spc. Justin Rein were this year’s winners, besting 55 other teams across three days and 32 individual events designed to push the mind and body to its limits.
“It just really shows that if you’re adaptable and you’re willing to learn,” Rein told WRBL CBS News in Columbus, Georgia at the awards ceremony on Sunday. “Everyone in the Army is here for the same purpose and we want to make a difference. So as long as we can adapt to our environment, you can really accomplish anything.”
Ebeling was humble when praising his teammate.
“I think in the Army we sometimes get wrapped around the fact of what’s so-and-so’s rank,” he told WRBL. “But at the end of the day, you know, he’s got a degree and J.T.’s working on his master’s and was taking tests, you know, as we’re preparing for the competition. And I think in a lot of ways, sometimes that’s your standard specialist in the Ranger regiment, right.”
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Rein is one of the few junior enlisted soldiers to win the competition, which has been held 39 times since 1982. Only in 2006, 1996, and back in 1988 has a Specialist been part of the winning team. Lest anyone doubt his physical abilities, here’s a picture from his train-up for the competition in January, with Rein finishing a 12-mile ruck march in one hour and 28 minutes.
The David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition, held at Fort Benning, Georgia, dates back to 1982. Two-man teams of Ranger-qualified personnel from across the Army (And on some occasions, from other services) compete nonstop over several days in a test of military skills, endurance, and mental strength. The events encompass everything from the infamous Ranger School Malvesti Obstacle Course to fast-roping from helicopters to night land navigation. There is an urban assault course, a rope-bridge crossing, and ruck marches and swimming. There are weapons ranges in which the competitors employ everything from a pistol to a mortar to anti-tank weapons.
Some events test the competitor’s mental acuity. In this year’s competition, one exercise involved identifying vehicles. Another required the competitors to memorize the contents of a tuff box in 30 seconds and then answer questions about those items. It’s these kinds of tests that really show the ingenuity of the soldiers, like the 2022 Best Ranger competitor who – when told to decode the key to open a box – simply chose to pry the box open without damaging the lock, much to the surprise and amazement of the instructors.
“It’s truly inspiring to come out and watch these competitors,” Army Sgt. Maj. Thomas Payne told Stars and Stripes. Payne is a special operations soldier who was awarded the Medal of Honor and is also a three-time competitor in the event, winning in 2012. “These guys are all amazing athletes, high-quality guys. Some of these guys, I’d say, could have made the Olympics, but then they have a passion to serve something greater than themselves, so here they are all volunteering for this competition.”
Fifty-six teams, from across the Army, competed in this year’s competition, from specialists to majors, and from units in the National Guard to Army Special Operations Command.
“They’re truly the top 1% of 1% of our Army that epitomizes a more elite soldier who can do things with their hands, their minds, their weapons, and their spirit that our adversaries cannot,” Col. Chris Hammonds, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade told Stars and Stripes.
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