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The Ivy Division hosts the annual Best Ranger, Best Sapper, and Best Medic Competitions

November 3, 2023

The top three winners of the 4th Infantry Division Best Sapper Competition receive an Army Achievement Medal presented by 4th Inf. Div. leadership at Fort Carson, Colorado, Nov. 3, 2023. 1st Sgt. Hudson Costa, a competitor assigned to 299th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was the first-place winner, receiving the highest score throughout the 10 events. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Escarne)

FORT CARSON, CO. - Twenty-four Ivy Soldiers from across the installation competed against the best of the best during the annual 4th Infantry Division Best Ranger, Best Sapper and Best Medic Competitions Oct. 30 to Nov. 3, 2023.

“A lot about life is just pushing yourself outside of comfort zones and learning to develop that way,” said 1st Lt. William Norman, a Best Medic competitor assigned to 1st Battalion, 41stInfantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division."It just looked like a really good challenge, something outside of my comfort zone, something that I’ve never tried before.”

The Soldiers selected for this competition were chosen based on their elite duty performance amongst their peers. Each of them completed 10 different events designed to challenge them, create stronger bonds and healthy competition, and become a more effective unit, both physically and mentally.

“The whole part about being a Soldier, and especially being a noncommissioned officer, is you always gotta stay ready, ”said Staff Sgt. Dwayne Jones, a Best Sapper competitor assigned to 299thBrigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div.

These competitions identify the most physically capable, technically sound, tactically proficient, and fit NCOs and officers alike.

The initial events of the competition included performing a non-standard physical fitness test, a stress-shoot during an M4carbine marksmanship range, and an obstacle course.

“When you’re doing field exercises, you’re always going to be put into stressful environments,” said Sgt. Jacob Hopper, also a Best Sapper competitor assigned to 299th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1stSBCT, 4th Inf. Div. “There’s nothing more stressful than constantly having to adapt to random conditions. This competition is a perfect representation of that, so this perfectly prepares me to prepare my Soldiers for the future.”

Representing the highest level of proficiency in the Ivy Division, the 24 Soldiers proved their worth during the testing of their technical skills; brains were tested as much as brawn. For Sappers, this meant detonating explosives; for medics, treating K9 injuries were among their skills tested.

Col. Michael P. Wagner, chief of staff, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, provides remarks to competitors during the closing ceremony of the4th Infantry Division's Best Ranger, Sapper, and Medic competition Nov. 3, 2023 at Fort Carson, Colorado. The week-long competition tested individual technical and tactical aptitude and culminated with a timed team scenario that showcased their ability to apply their comprehensive knowledge while shooting, moving, and communicating with other Soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Escarne)

The Rangers on the other hand had all the heavy lifting as they competed in a maximum strength test.

“It just starts with going to the gym every single day, and then just putting in that time and work months prior to coming down to a competition like that,” said Sgt. Kevin McGoldrick, a Best Ranger competitor assigned to 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div.

While not every Soldier was tested on pure strength, the competition still took plenty of physical exertion.

“In the physical aspect, it pushes you farther than you think you can go and it strengthens you mentally,” said Jones. “I can’t be a leader and expect my Soldiers to do the hard stuff if I’m not willing to do the hard stuff myself.”

The competitors also conducted land navigation, a ruck march and tactical medical care.

“The biggest thing I have gotten out of competing is the opportunity to solely focus on training and really honing the skill and craft of our tasks as a medic,” said Spc. Lylah Heider, assigned to1st Bn., 41st Inf. Reg., 2nd SBCT, 4th Inf. Div.

The competition concluded with a mystery team event, which included a timed tactical paintball lane that tested the competitors' ability to shoot, move, and communicate under simulated small arms fire.

The 2023 Ivy Best Medic was Norman; the Best Sapper was 1st Sgt. Hudson Costa with 299th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1stSBCT, 4th Inf. Div; and the Best Ranger was 1st Lt. Trevor Engle with 1stBattalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd SBCT, 4th Inf. Div.

“It felt great just being surrounded by the best Soldiers in the units,” said Engle. “They were really strong competitors. Tough competition, but overall, a good time.”

The winners from each competition will go on to compete in the Army Best Ranger, Best Sapper and Best Medic Competitions in April 2024.