This year's Best Rangers reflect on their victory
By Larry Gierer | Columbus Ledger-Enquirer | Published: April 15, 2014
After the first day of the David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition, the 25th Infantry Division team of 2nd Lt. Michael Rose and 2nd Lt. John Bergman was in 13th place.
The partners, who won the 31st annual event Sunday at Fort Bennng, said Monday that they were never concerned with other teams.
"We did not change our strategy," Rose said following an awards ceremony. "We just continued to do our best."
"We were just trying to finish," Bergman added.
Of the 50 teams that began the competition Friday, only 26 remained at the end.
The team had two coaches. One was 1st Sgt. James McGuffey, who competed in 2012. The other was Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Santiago, who, with his partner Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Briggs, won last year.
"They were rushing and making mistakes that first day," Santiago said. "It happens the first time in competition. I told them to calm down."
He was thrilled to see how strong the team performed the rest of the way.
"They were phenomenal on the final day," Santiago said. "They had the best times in a couple of events and they had no penalties."
The soldiers are stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
"They began training in January, working practically every dayu. I had the all over the island," Santiago said.
He knew the men were in great physical shape. "I told them to make smart decisions out there."
Rose, 23, is from Roswell, Georgia. Bergman, 24, is from Lawrence, Kansas.
Each has been in the Army about 18 months.
Bergman said the team was really feeling good the last two days.
Rose said the most challenging part of the competition for him was the last event, the final buddy run.
He said he was "totally spent" and needed Bergman to drive him through it.
The National Guard team of Capt. Robert Killian and 1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar, which led after each of the first two days, crossed the finish line first in that event.
“I thought they might have bested us there,” Rose said.
But even with the victory, the efforts of Killian and Plocar were only good for second place.
Of competing in the event, Bergman called it an “unreal experience.”
He said he was glad to bring the title back to Hawaii which had not won it for about 19 years.
The awards ceremony began in the Marshall Auditorium at McGinnis-Wickham Hall . The winners then went outside and visited the Ranger Memorial.
Each of the the winners received two .45 pistols, one from Colt and one from Heckler and Koch.
Maj. General H.R. McMaster, the commanding general of Fort Benning and the Manuever Center of Excellence, spoke at the awards ceremony and called it “a great day.”
He said that the competition reminds us of what makes our Army strong and that the Army is made up of teams. He talked about how the Rangers showed they have the will and determination to overcome hardships.
Also speaking was U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McRaven , the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
He told the audience about other great Ranger teams that have made history in the past and said that no one questions the certainty that Rangers lead the way. He said the Rangers had the admiration of the nation.