Guardsman tests skills among others at 2018 Best Ranger Competition
Photo By Patrick Albright | FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 13, 2018) Spc. Jan Wolfisberg, right, and Sgt. Jordy Brewer, assigned to the Army National Guard, exit Victory Pond at Fort Benning, during the Victory Pond swim event of the 2018 Best Ranger Competition April 13, 2018. The David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition is an annual event in its 35th iteration to determine the top-performing two-person Ranger team from units across the Army as well as sister services. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright)
As the starting gun goes off, 100 Rangers sprint from the start line to tackle their first objective – a 10-mile run. For the next 60 hours straight, they compete to become one of the U.S. Army’s Best Rangers. Among the competitors is Spc. Jan Wolfisberg, Charlie Company 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment.
“I was one of the youngest competitors and just a specialist,” said Wolfisberg. “A lot of the NCOs that competed have 10 to 15 years of experience and I am here with less than a year of experience, it was a great feeling.”
For 35 years, Rangers from across the Army have traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia, putting their skills to the test against others for the chance to be the very best. In November 2017, an open tryout letter was sent to Infantry units across the country. The goal is to find the best National Guard Rangers to fill teams to compete at the Best Ranger Competition.
“I had just returned from Airborne school in October and my commander told me to try out,” said Wolfisberg. “I didn’t know if I could make it, but I put my name on the list.”
In December, the Lynden, Washington resident and Washington State University Alumni, flew back to Fort Benning and tested for the opportunity to represent the Guard in the Best Ranger Competition.
“There were guys more experienced than I was, but in the end I was selected to represent the National Guard,” said Wolfisberg.
In January, Wolfisberg joined his fellow selectees to train up for the competition.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “We trained every day, non-stop, day after day. We probably shot like 3,000 rounds during the two months, but it was the best training I had ever received.”
On April 13, Wolfisberg found himself standing alongside 99 other Rangers, waiting for the start gun to sound.
“The competition is so great. Guard, Active Duty, it didn’t matter, we are all on the same level,” he said.
Through the first 13 hours of competition, Wolfisberg and his teammate, Sgt. Jordy Brewer, Kentucky National Guard, were 33rd out of 54 teams and facing elimination at the end of the first day.
“We knew at the start of the ruck march we had to make up ground because only the top 24 teams advanced to day two,” said Wolfisberg.
During the 14-mile ruck march, Wolfisberg and Brewer began chipping away, passing teams in the night on the road.
“Every time one of us started to get tired, we pushed the other to keep going,” said Wolfisberg. “We knew we had to keep going.”
As the duo crossed the finish line just before 1 a.m., they had made up enough time to be sitting in 18th position and continue competing.
“It was such a great feeling,” he said. “The ruck march was the most difficult event of the whole competition.”
At the start of the second day, Wolfisberg and Brewer fought through exhaustion and hunger, finishing three events, and remaining in 18th place before the number of contenders were cut down for another round. Wolfisberg and Brewer were the second highest placing National Guard team.
From being a recent Ranger school graduate to one of the Army’s best in less than a year, Spc. Wolfisberg remains humble and positive about the future.
“I want to try again next year, and recommend anyone that wants to try out to do it,” said Wolfisberg. “The National Guard teams are always looking for great Ranger qualified members to try out and represent the Guard.”
U.S. Army Ranger Spc. Jan Wolfisberg assigned to the National Guard, poses with his brothers as his mother takes a picture during The 35th Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition on Fort Benning Ga., April 13, 2018. The 35th Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition 2018 is a three-day event consisting of challenges to test competitors' physical, mental, and technical capabilities. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. WIlliam Ploeg)