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(Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
(Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)
U.S. Army Rangers complete a swimming event at Fort Benning, Ga., during the challenging Best Ranger Competition, part of the annual Infantry Week competition in April 2019.
U.S. Army Rangers complete a swimming event at Fort Benning, Ga., during the challenging Best Ranger Competition, part of the annual Infantry Week competition in April 2019. (Patrick Albright/U.S. Army)

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FORT BENNING, Ga. — Infantry Week will return to Fort Benning this month, where top skilled soldiers will compete for the titles as Best Sniper and Best Ranger in pared-backed competitions that come after the coronavirus pandemic forced the Army post to cancel the events last year.

Fort Benning will host the Best Sniper competition between April 12-16 and the Best Ranger competition between April 16-19, taking precautions meant to mitigate the risk of spreading the coronavirus, officials said. Competitors are required to test negative for the coronavirus before their arrival at Fort Benning on April 11, and they will be restricted to the post, according to the Army.

The 2021 version of Infantry Week, which is held by the Army’s Infantry School at Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, will not include two of the competitions typically held during the event in recent years. Officials elected to cancel the Army-only combative tournament and the Best Mortar competition again this year to limit the number of competitors traveling to the post.

In a note to competitors, Col. Antwan L. Dunmyer, commander of Fort Benning’s Airborne Ranger and Training Brigade, said the Army was excited for the return of Infantry Week. He said the competitions, especially the long-standing and storied Best Ranger contest, were “necessary and more rewarding” after last year’s cancellations.

Army officials said, in addition to crowning winners, the competitions have also proved to help the Army advance soldiers’ combat skills and identify new tactics, often through the creativity of competitors. Infantry Week competition “validates tactics, techniques and procedures, tests the latest doctrine, highlights infantry initiatives, and builds esprit de corps through competition and camaraderie,” according to a Fort Benning statement.

Having no Best Ranger competition last year marked the first cancelation of the event since 2002, when Army officials axed it in the early weeks of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The event was also canceled in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

This year will mark the 37th David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger contest, considered the most grueling of the traditional Infantry Week challenges, and among the toughest military challenges worldwide.

The three-day competition sees two-person teams of Ranger School graduates from units across the service compete in day and night exercises that test a wide variety of skills. Ranger teams go through a variety of obstacle courses, an urban-assault course, land-navigation courses, a combat water-survival test, runs and marches on little or no sleep.

The Best Sniper competition, typically open to international competitors, will determine the U.S. military’s top sniper duo for 2021.

The competition tests the snipers' abilities to hit long-range targets, their camouflage skills and other techniques needed to move undetected in the field. The tests include challenges meant to stress competitors’ critical thinking, according to the Army.

“That can involve, for example, having to demonstrate their ability to spot — from distances of up to 400 meters — objects as small as a pen, well-concealed inside a tree line,” according to an Army description of the event. Competitors will shoot targets at distances of 1,500 meters and possibly even farther, according to the service.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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