‘Black Lion’ duo places in Top 15 at Best Ranger comp
First Lt. Sam Gulland, left, and 1st Lt. Chris Siok, right, participate in a march during the Best Ranger competition April 12 to 15 at Fort Benning, Ga. COURTESY PHOTO
Story by: SSG Gene A. Arnold
After recently completing a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, a two-man team assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division competed in the Best Ranger competition April 12 to 15 at Fort Benning, Ga.
This team was the only one competing under the "Big Red One" at the Army level against Ranger battalions, and Special and Delta Force units in a weeklong series of events, in which they placed 13th overall.
First Lt. Sam Gulland and 1st Lt. Chris Siok started the training process while serving on a hardship tour to Afghanistan with the "Dragon" Brigade during Operation Enduring Freedom 2012 to 2013.
"We actually expressed an interest to compete in December, while we were in Afghanistan. So, on top of the daily training, in addition to the weight training, we would conduct long Ruck marches around (Forward Operating Base) Orgun-E," Gulland said. "I'd say that a lot of the missions we conducted while in Afghanistan actually did help because we carried a lot of heavy packs through the mountains."
For months, the pair trained for strength and endurance prior to redeployment. After a quick post deployment leave, the duo was off conducting more technical training in the lush green and pine fragranced air of Georgia.
With more than 40 Ranger tab-qualified teams from various units across the Army training and competing, some Soldiers might have been intimidated, but not Siok, who competed in a previous Best Ranger competition.
"There are times you walk into a room, and you obviously see there are some solid Soldiers, but if you feel intimidated, they have already won," Siok said. "You have to recognize that you are in the same room as them, and they're looking at you the same way."
Various skill-level assessments, written tests and physical and mental tests were given to separate the competitors. Going from a long run, straight into a 15-mile ruck march and hurdle obstacles can be trying on the motivational levels while fatigued.
This also could have come with more stress since the duo recently completed a nine-month deployment. However, they pushed through and leaned on each other when the times were tough.
"That's the fundamental reason why it's a two-man event," Siok said. "In Ranger doctrine, you're always with a Ranger buddy."
"The things that I may be weak on, may be his strong suit and vice versa. We are supposed to help each other," Gulland added.
Overall, the two men said they were happy with the way they performed during the competition. For Gulland, some mistakes were made he felt could have been prevented, he said, but for his first time competing, he was happy with how well he and Siok performed.
"I just want to thank my unit and peers for giving us the opportunity to compete," Gulland said. "We're both platoon leaders, and a lot of the work we do fell on the shoulders of others. Without them, we wouldn't have gotten as far as we did, but now it's time to go back to work."