Marine Wins "Best Ranger" Title

1 May 2001 | Sgt. Scott Peczka

A Marine Corps gunnery sergeant is the best the Army Ranger School has to offer. Gunnery Sergeant Keith Oakes and his partner, Sergeant 1st Class William Patterson, won the 19th Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition held April 27th-29th at Fort Benning, Ga.Gunnery Sgt. Oakes is the only Marine in the competition's nineteen-year history to earn a first place finish. "There are a lot of us that go to Ranger School and say, 'Hey let's pair up and compete,' and they set high marks, but can't get away from their units to train or compete," said Oakes who is an instructor at the Ranger School. "I am just in the perfect place to take a shot at it." The sixty-hour competition had events like unknown-distance runs and surprise skills tests, scheduled back to back, to challenge and sometimes break a team of two. Only twenty of the forty-four teams that started, finished. "It's one thing to know a skill, it's another to do it while exhausted and tired. Simple tasks become hard," said Oakes.Gunnery Sgt. Oakes, the oldest competitor at the competition, competed in the last three Best Ranger Competitions, but said it was a daily commitment to winning that put his team at the top this year. However, Oakes said, "I won't do it again. It was costly to my lifestyle and my family, but it was worth it. I will probably help coach a team next year." The winning team didn't go home with just a title. Oakes and Patterson both took home pistols and throwing knives, including a Gold Cup Colt .45 pistol. They also took home the camaraderie between the different services. "It is definitely an honor to be up here training with the Rangers," Gunnery Sgt Oakes said. "I feel right at home. They have the same espirt de corps. They have the same haircuts. They should have been Marines, they just walked in the wrong door."
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