U.S. Army RANGERS
US Army Rangers draw strongly on the heritage, traditions and ethos of Rogers' Rangers, but have no lineage back to that unit. The current US Army Rangers, the 75th Ranger Regiment, were originally raised for the Korean War. The modern rangers can only trace their lineage directly back to the Korean War and to the ranger training course which has existed continuously since World War II.
American light infantry units called rangers were raised for, and disbanded after, the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution (for both sides), the American Civil War (for both sides) and World War II.
The United States Army Ranger School is an intense, nine-week-long, combat leadership course, oriented to small-unit tactics, and conducted in three separate three-week-long phases - at Fort Benning, Georgia, U.S.A., (the woodland terrain, 'Benning Phase'), at Camp Rogers and Camp Darby, Georgia, 'the Mountain Phase' at Camp Merrill, near Dahlonega, Georgia, and the Florida Phase at Camp Rudder, Eglin AFB, Florida. The Desert Phase, conducted first at Fort Bliss, Texas and later at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah was eliminated in 1995. The last Ranger School class to go through the desert phase was class 7-95.
Ranger School was formed in 1950, during the Korean War, in order to train soldiers in Ranger tactics. The first class graduated in November 1950.
Many Ranger students come from the 75th Ranger Regiment, where completing and passing Ranger School is required for any leadership position, but many other students come from regular Army units, and return to them with greater leadership skills. The Army also allocates a select number of training slots each year to other service branches. These highly valued school slots are often competed for and used to augment the training of specialized combat career fields that directly support Army units.
Since the 1950s, students have received a copy of Rangers Standing Orders, a version of the guidance Major Robert Rogers composed for his unit, Rogers' Rangers.
Ranger School training has a basic scenario: the flourishing drug and terrorist operations of the enemy forces, “the Aragon Liberation Front,” must be stopped. To do so, the Rangers will take the fight to their territory, the rough terrain surrounding Fort Benning, the mountains of northern Georgia, and the swamps and coast of Florida. Ranger students are given a clear mission, but they determine how to best execute it.
The purpose of the course is learning to soldier as a combat leader while enduring the great mental and psychological stresses and physical fatigue of combat; the Ranger Instructors (RI) create and cultivate such a physical and mental environment. Field craft instruction is most of the coursework; students wear and carry some 45kg (100lbs) of equipment; plan and execute daily patrolling, perform reconnaissance, ambushes, and raids against dispersed targets, followed by stealthy movement to a new patrol base to plan the next mission. Daily training averages 20 hours, two, or fewer, meals daily, and some 3.5 hours of sleep a day. Rangers sleep more before a parachute jump.
Ranger School students will participate in three airborne, and several air-assault operations throughout the duration of the course, relying on C-130 cargo planes, as well as UH-60 (Blackhawk) and Chinook helicopters, for insertion and extraction. For non-airborne personnel, they will work drop-zone details while the other students jump. The students also have the ability to call-in and utilize close air support in the form of Apache attack helicopters and AC-130 Spectre gunships during many of their missions. All aircraft are provided by other nearby units as part of a training co-operative.
Fort Benning is the home of the Ranger Training Brigade and its 4th Ranger Training Battalion, which hosts the “crawl” phase of Ranger School, where students learn the fundamentals of squad-level mission planning. This phase is critical to success, as it lays the groundwork for the “walk” and “run” phases. At Benning, training is separated into two parts, the Ranger Assessment Phase (RAP) and Camp Darby.
The Ranger Assessment Phase has traditionally included:
Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) requiring:
- Push-ups - 49+
- Sit-ups - 59+
- 5 mile individual run in uniform and running shoes in 40 minutes or less
- Concluding with 6 chin-ups.
- Combat Water Survival Assessment and Water Confidence Test, conducted at Victory Pond
- Combination Night/Day land navigation test
- Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) training, conducted for several hours nightly in the sawdust pits
- A 1.63 mile terrain run
- Malvesti Field Obstacle Course, featuring the notorious "worm pit":
- 25-meter obstacle covered by knee-high barbed wire
- Demolitions training and airborne refresher training
- 12 mile individual ruck march in 3 hours and 15 minutes or less.
The emphasis at Camp Darby is on the instruction in and execution of squad combat operations. The Ranger student receives instruction on airborne/air assault operations, demolitions, environmental and "field craft" training, executes the infamous "Darby Queen" obstacle course, and learns the fundamentals of patrolling, warning and operations orders, and communications. The fundamentals of combat operations include battle drills (React to Contact, Break Contact, React to Ambush, Platoon Raid), which are focused on providing the principles and techniques that enable the squad-level element to successfully conduct reconnaissance and raid missions. The Ranger student must then demonstrate his expertise in both leadership and support roles through a series of cadre and student led tactical operations. As a result, the Ranger student gains tactical and technical proficiency, confidence in himself, and prepares to move to the next phase of the course--the Mountain Phase.
During the Mountain Phase, students are taught military mountaineering and techniques for employing a platoon in combat in mountains. They further develop command ability, and controlling a platoon through planning, preparing, and executing a combat missions. The Ranger student continues learning how to sustain himself and his subordinates in the mountains. The rugged terrain, severe weather, hunger, mental and physical fatigue, and the psychological stress the student encounters allow him the measure his capabilities and limitations and those of his fellow soldiers.
In addition to combat operations, the student receives five days of military mountaineering training. In the first three days he learns knots, belays, anchor points, rope management and the fundamentals of climbing and rappelling. The training ends in a two-day Upper mountaineering exercise at Yonah Mountain, to apply the skills learned during Lower mountaineering. Each student must make all prescribed climbs at Mt. Yonah to continue in the course. During the field training exercise (FTX), students execute a mission requiring mountaineering skills.
Combat missions are against a conventionally-equipped threat force in a Mid-Intensity Conflict. These missions are both day and night in an eight-day FTX, and include moving cross country over mountains, vehicle ambushes, raiding communications and mortar sites, and a river crossing or scaling a steep sloped mountain.
The Ranger student reaches his objective in several ways: cross-country movement, parachuting into small drop zones, air assaults into small, mountain-side landing zones, or a 10 mile march across the Tennessee Valley Divide. The student's commitment and physico-mental stamina are tested to the maximum. At any time, he may be selected to lead tired, hungry, physically expended Ranger students to execute and accomplish another mission. At the end of the Mountain Phase, the students travel by bus to a nearby airfield and conduct an airborne operation, jumping into Florida Phase. For non-airborne students, or "legs", they are bused to Eglin AFB for Florida Phase.
The Third Phase of Ranger School is conducted at Camp James E. Rudder (Auxiliary Field #6), Eglin AFB, Florida. Emphasis during this phase is to continue the development of the Ranger student's combat arms functional skills. He must be capable of operating effectively under conditions of extreme mental and physical stress. This is accomplished through practical exercises in extended platoon level operations in a jungle/swamp environment. Training further develops the students' ability to plan for and lead small units on independent and coordinated airborne, air assault, small boat, and dismounted combat operations in a mid-intensity combat environment against a well-trained, sophisticated enemy.
The Florida Phase continues the progressive, realistic OPFOR (Opposing Forces) scenario. As the scenario develops, the students receive "in-country" technique training that assists them in accomplishing the tactical missions later in the phase. Technique training includes: small boat operations, expedient stream crossing techniques, and skills needed to survive and operate in a jungle/swamp environment involving learning how to deal with reptiles, and how to determine the difference between venomous snakes and non-venomous snakes. The camp has specially trained reptile experts that teach how to not be afraid of them.
The Ranger students are updated on the scenario that eventually commits the unit to combat during techniques training. The 9-day FTX is a fast-paced, highly stressful, challenging exercise in which the students are further trained, but are also evaluated on their ability to apply small unit tactics/techniques. They apply the tactics/techniques of raids, ambushes and movement to contact to accomplish their missions. The capstone of the course is the extensively-planned raid of the ALF's island stronghold. This small boat operation involves each platoon in the class, all working together on separate missions to take down the cartel's final point of strength.
Afterwards, students who earned graduation spend several days cleaning their weapons and equipment before returning to Ft. Benning. By then they have earned PX (Post Exchange ) privileges, and access to the "Gator Lounge", a place where they can use a telephone, eat civilian food and drink beers and watch television. During that time students are fed three daily meals. The graduation is at Camp Rogers in Ft. Benning. In an elaborate ceremony at Victory Pond, the black-and-gold Ranger tab is pinned to the graduating soldier's left shoulder (usually by a relative, a respected RI, or soldier from the student's original unit). The Ranger tab is permanently worn above the soldier's unit patch.
A student's graduation is highly dependent on his performance in graded positions of leadership. This leadership ability is evaluated at various levels in various situations, and is observed while he is in one of his typically two graded leadership roles per phase. He can either meet the high standards and be given a "GO" by the R.I., or he can fail to meet this standard and receive the dreaded "NO GO". He must demonstrate the ability to meet the standard in order to move forward, and can thus only afford one blown patrol. His success will lie in his ability to essentially manipulate the men directly underneath his charge of leadership. At times, this will be as few as 2 to 3 men - while he may be given charge of up to an entire 50 or 60 man platoon. His success is dependent on the performance of these individuals, whom he must motivate and lead. Missions are broken up into 3 stages: planning, movement, and action on the objective. Key leadership positions, as well as important support positions like the medic and the RTO (Radiotelephone Operator), are reassigned for each of the three stages of a mission.
Another part of the evaluation of the student is a peer evaluation; failing a peer evaluation (scoring less than a 60% approval rating from your squad) can result in disqualification, though usually only if it happens twice. Due to unit loyalties, certain individuals within a squad who may be "the odd man out" will sometimes be singled out by the squad arbitrarily. Because of this, someone who has been "peered out", or "peered", will be moved to another squad, sometimes within another platoon, in order to ensure that this was not the reason the student was peered. If it happens within this new squad, however, this is generally an indication that student is being singled out because he is either lazy, incompetent, or cannot keep up. At this time he will usually be removed from the course.
It should be noted that the evaluation process is often completed via "agreement" within a squad. This means that when the evaluation is issued at the end of a phase, the squad members all agree to rate one another in such a manner that no one is "singled out".
If a student performs successfully, but suffers an injury that keeps him from finishing, he may be re-cycled at the discretion of either the battalion or the brigade commander; he’ll be given an opportunity to heal and finish the course with the next class. While in the status of waiting to re-join another class, the student lives in the "Gulag" attempting not to draw attention and when that fails, getting stuck on detail.
Students can also be recycled for failing a leadership evaluation on patrol; however, if a student fails patrols in a given phase twice, he will usually be offered a "day one re-start" and have to begin Ranger school from RAP week onwards. Day one restarts can also be given (the other option being removed from training, never to return) in the case of soldiers who fail patrol leadership positions and peer evaluations. In rare cases, those assessed of integrity violations (lying, cheating, stealing) will also be given the ability to take a day one restart, however these soldiers are usually permanently removed from the course.
Historically, the graduation rate has been around 40%, but this has fluctuated in both directions at certain points. In the last three years the graduation rate has risen from 52% in 2005 to 54% in 2006 to 56% in 2007. Only around 20% of soldiers make it through all three phases without having to repeat a phase.
It is not uncommon for soldiers to lose 15-30 pounds. Military folk wisdom has it that Ranger School's physical toll is like years of natural aging; high levels of fight-or-flight stress hormones (adrenalin, noradrenalin, cortisol), along with standard sleep deprivation and continual physical strain, inhibit full physical and mental recovery throughout the course.
Common maladies during the course include weight loss, dehydration, trench foot, heatstroke, frostbite, chilblains, fractures, tissue tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles), swollen hands, feet, knees, nerve damage, loss of limb sensitivity, cellulitis, contact dermatitis, cuts, and insect, spider, and wildlife bites.
Because of the physical and psychological effect of low calorie intake over an extended period of time, it is not uncommon for many Ranger School graduates to encounter weight problems as they return to their units and their bodies and minds slowly adjust to routine again. A drastically lowered metabolic rate, combined with a nearly insatiable appetite (the result of food deprivation and the ensuing survivalist mentality) can cause quick weight gain, as the body is already in energy (fat) storing mode.