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Guard Soldiers Win Best Ranger for First Time in Competition's History

  • Army Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, left, and Army Capt. Robert Killian, move a large truck tire while competing in the 2016 Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning. (Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. D. Richard Salzer) Army Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, left, and Army Capt. Robert Killian, move a large truck tire while competing in the 2016 Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning. (Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. D. Richard Salzer)
  • Army Capt. Robert Killian, right, and Army Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein head out to their next event while competing in the 2016 Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga. (Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. D. Richard Salzer) Army Capt. Robert Killian, right, and Army Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein head out to their next event while competing in the 2016 Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga. (Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. D. Richard Salzer)

A National Guard team has won the Army's Best Ranger competition for the first time in its 33-year history, the service announced.

The officer-enlisted duo -- Capt. Robert Killian of the Colorado Army National Guard and Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard -- earned their place in Ranger history on Sunday after completing the grueling 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, with a come-from-behind victory, according to a press release from the National Guard Bureau.

They were recognized by Acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy during a ceremony the next day at the installation, the release states.

"It's a big thing for the Guard and I'm humbled and honored to be the first," said Killian, a detachment commander with B Company, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), a five-time competitor of the event who finished in second placed the past two years. "I'm ecstatic and honored and I hope I'm an inspiration for others."

Friedlein said the contest was close, according to the Guard.

"It still really hasn't totally sunk in yet," he said in the release. "I'm just really amazed. I can't believe we did it after the three days of struggling and just constantly trying to chip away at first place, then taking the lead after night orienteering and losing it on the obstacle course, just fighting all the way to the end."

The competition, held each spring at Fort Benning, is open to soldiers who have already completed Ranger School, a challenging three-month infantry training course that includes everything from physical fitness and swim tests, land navigation exercises, foot marches, obstacle courses, parachute jumps, mountaineering tests and mock patrols.

This year's Best Ranger contest included an unknown distance run, unknown distance swim, urban obstacle course, weighted litter carry, a stress shoot, nighttime ruck march under load, a written exam while fatigued, night land navigation, combat water survival obstacle course, the Darby Queen obstacle course, helocast and a final buddy run, according to the service.

Killian said he plans to return to the competition again next year with a former teammate now taking the Special Force qualification course, the release states.

--Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

Related Topics

Headlines Brendan McGarry Army National Guard Army Rangers Special Operations Special Forces

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