MILITARY MATTERS: Former Fort Benning Ranger Taking on Toughest Biking Race on Earth
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - As the Best Ranger competition gets started on Fort Benning, a winner from 25 years ago is prepping for one of the toughest adventure races in the world, all to help today’s Army rangers.
“Because they put the tag line, the toughest race on Earth...it called my name,” former Army Ranger Jeff Struecker said.
Three decades after Struecker led a team of soldiers in the well-known battle in Mogadishu known as “Black Hawk Down,” this former famed Ranger is taking on a new challenge off the battlefield. He signed up for a bicycle race for the bravest of the brave, the iconic 1,000 kilometer Munga in South Africa.
“The race is mountain bike, 1 cyclist, no support crew, 5 days, no stop, you’re on your own and you’re gonna cover about 725 miles,” Struecker said.
“That’s absolutely huge for people to see that, to look and say that guy is still giving back, he’s still living the Ranger creed,” Three Rangers Foundation Executive Director Mike Hall said.
Mike Hall leads the Three Rangers Foundation. Through the toughest mountain biking race in the world, Struecker’s goal is to raise $50,000 for that organization that was started by a trio of former Rangers who also also fought in the battle of Mogadishu, where two black hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 Americans died.
“It’s a non-profit that basically helps Rangers that are struggling while they’re still in the military or helps them while they transition out of the military, to transition well,” Struecker added.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he wanted to do something for the organization, he’s been intimately involved for over 10 years, from when it started...but when he told me what he was going to do, I said Jeff you’re an old man,” Hall also told us.
And he’s feeling the pain, on daily 2-3 hour bike rides, manytimes at 4 or 5am, training for Munga which is in late November.
“I am highly intimidated by this race, because of how challenging it is, because of where it is, because I’ve never done something like this before,” Struecker said.
But this 23-year Army veteran is prepping for the grueling event, all to raise funds and awareness for the Three Rangers Foundation - which helps guys smoothly transition to what’s next after serving their country. That includes networking and a worthwhile career that can help them move on from trauma.
Hall said, “I don’t ask anybody to hire anybody. I say give them a shot, level the playing field.”
“I’ve watched so many of my friends get out of the military, they were amazing warriors when they were in the military, then they get out, they’re lost and don’t know wahat to do with themselves next. And some of them make some really bad decisions, some of them can’t handle it and they’ll end up putting a gun in their mouth,” Struecker said.
“They (former Rangers) still have a purpose and they can still give back, can still make a difference in other people’s lives,” Hall added.
Former Best Ranger competition winner Struecker hopes to make a difference too, now and in South Africa, by motivating his fellow Rangers to pull themselves up and raise money to help do that. Go to JeffStruecker.com/Munga to give to the cause.
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