Fort Benning, Georgia –
FORT BENNING, Ga. – "Ladies and gentlemen, in second place, Team 32 – Capt. Robert Killian, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, Colorado Army National Guard; and 1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar, 127th Infantry, Wisconsin Army National Guard."
And with those words from Army Col. Kyle Lear, commander of the Ranger Training Brigade, the Army National Guard secured its highest finish in the annual Best Ranger Competition.
Of the 50 teams to start the competition April 13 at Fort Benning, Georgia, four belonged to the National Guard.
"Less than one percent of our Soldiers are Ranger qualified," Lear said to open the awards ceremony following the grueling three-day event. "The 26 teams you will see lined up tonight represent the absolute best of that one percent."
This was the third Best Ranger Competition for Killian and Plocar, and the experience showed. Team 32 led the competition from the opening event, surrendering the lead only after the Spot Drop event on Day Three. Killian and Plocar – who were teammates in 2012 – finished strong in the competition's final event, taking the lead in the Buddy Run about one minute into the run and building a considerable lead en route to their first-place finish. But that was not enough to reclaim the lead from the team of second lieutenants from the 25th Infantry Division: Michael Rose and John Bergman.
"Having deployed we so a lot of these same tasks," said Killian. "That's one of the reasons we want to come to the competition – just to see how honed in our skills are. You always have to be ready. You always have to be proficient. Having those skills honed in and seeing who's the best of the best and not only on active duty but as a national guard member too – you've always got to be ready for anything that happens on the civilian side as well as the military side."
"It's a bittersweet feeling," Plocar acknowledged. "We did so well over the first two days in so many events. To come up short on one event is tough, but it's still a good result, and good for the National Guard."
According to the Best Ranger Competition website, the average competitor is 28 years old, 5 feet 10 inches, 165 pounds, Airborne Ranger qualified and a decathlon-caliber athlete, and ranges in rank from specialist to major. Just over one in four have competed in the event before.