By Vaughn R. Larson, Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs
FORT BENNING, GA. (ANG) - Two Army National Guard Soldiers, including one from Wisconsin, finished in the top 10 in the 30th Annual David E. Grange, Jr. Best Ranger Competition.
1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar, a member of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, and 1st Lt. Travis Cornwall of the Georgia Army National Guard, finished in seventh place following a grueling 60-hour competition. Their team - Team 49 - surged to first place after the opening events April 12 and held the top spot through the end of the first day of what is regarded as the Army Ranger Olympics. Team 49 saw its fortunes change on Day Two, falling to third place, and eventually to ninth. The team powered through the final events on Day Three to capture seventh place, finishing in the midst of active-duty Ranger and Special Operations Command teams.
"I've been telling everybody that it's bittersweet," Plocar said while preparing to leave Fort Benning on April 16. "Finishing seventh is nothing to be ashamed of, but we wanted to do better - especially when you consider that we were in first place the whole first day."
Plocar acknowledged that a couple of mistakes kept his team from finishing higher this year.
"The competition was stiffer than last year, too," he said.
Two Army National Guard teams began the competition. However, the other National Guard team - Team 50, consisting of 1st Lt. Jose Moreno and Sgt. Erich Friedlein - was among the 25 teams that did not advance following the night stakes event Friday night/Saturday morning.
Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, assistant adjutant general for Army, congratulated Plocar.
"We are extremely proud of 1st Lt. Plocar's achievement yet again in demonstrating his resolve to excel in the Best Ranger Competition," Anderson said, noting that Plocar also participated in last year's Best Ranger Competition. "This high-intensity annual event pits the best U.S. Army Rangers against each other, and 1st Lt. Plocar's personal dedication, professionalism and commitment to excellence are reflected in finishing very high in the standings."
During the "Super Supper" meal following the final event, Col. Kyle Lear - commander of the Ranger Training Brigade - attested to the significance of competing and completing the Ranger gauntlet.
"Less than one percent of our Army Soldiers are Ranger qualified," Lear said. "And the 24 teams in front of you today represent the absolute best of that one percent. These competitors, along with the rest of the Army's Rangers, represent the heart of the Warrior Spirit that makes our Army and our Joint Forces the absolute best in the world."