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The Complete Ranger

By 1st Sgt. Jesse Navarro

Published in From One Leader to Another Volume II by the U.S. Army Command And General Staff College in 2014

January 8, 2019

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Command sergeants major from across the U.S. Army Reserve

The skills that set a young Airborne Ranger apart from his peers in the Army develops in eight short but busy weeks. The Army is able to transform a high school senior into a Soldier in 17 weeks. The Basic Airborne Course teaches him how to jump out of an airplane safely. After that, the work of the 75th Ranger Regiment's Selection and Training cadre begins.

The Ranger Assessment and Selection Program Phase 1 (RASP 1) takes a young Soldier with 20-weeks of Army knowledge and hands him to a Ranger battalion two months later, prepared to immediately deploy to combat. These men are able to go on the most dangerous combat missions with the credibility of our nation at stake. Their development is accomplished by focusing on the five major facets that comprise the complete Ranger.

The hallmark of the 75th Ranger Regiment is individual discipline. It is instilled in Ranger candidates during their one station unit training (OSUT) and continually reinforced throughout the RASP 1 course. Candidates are expected to be at the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform. The RASP 1 cadre spend countless hours conducting layouts, inspections, drill and ceremony, and reciting the Ranger Creed. They acknowledge and reward candidates for exceptional performance and retrain those who are not meeting the standard through additional training, counseling, spot reports, and disciplinary boards.

All candidates must display proper military discipline and ethics throughout the course. They are expected to uphold the professional military ethic. This ethic is reinforced through classes given by the unit chaplain. Those who cannot live this ethic are immediately dropped from the course – we chose character over talent every single time.

Ranger units are characterized as the world's premiere entry force by the Army Chief of Staff and chartered by Gen. Creighton Abrahams to be better with their hands and weapons than anyone, and are known for their lethality. Lethality is the second facet taught in RASP 1; it includes multiple infantry skills such as marksmanship, weapons training, progressive breaching, battle drills, and medical proficiency. Mobility is also reinforced as a method of entry through ground operations, Fast Rope Insertion and Extraction System training, as well as airborne operations.

Throughout the year, each of the more than 1,500 candidates spend 80 hours in the classroom and countless hours at the range, shooting more bullets than the average Soldier shoots in a year, while reinforcing long-range and close-quarters marksmanship and providing an introduction to the M9 pistol. When a candidate becomes a Ranger and assimilates into a battalion, he is prepared to exit his vehicle or aircraft and rapidly and accurately engage enemy from zero to 400 meters.

I accept the fact that my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other Soldier.

A U.S. Army Soldier rappels a cliff face

Physicality is the third facet in making the complete Ranger, and, similar to discipline, is non-waiverable in becoming a Ranger. The only entry requirement the Ranger Regiment asks of a Soldier to start RASP 1 is that he can pass the minimum Army standard of 60% in each event of the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and complete four pull-ups. The RASP 1 cadre then begin the rigorous process of preparing the candidate physically to become a Ranger.

This physical development process takes the full eight weeks and all testing is conducted near the end of the course. Proper nutrition is taught upon arrival to the course and expected to be followed for the duration of each Ranger’s career. The physical requirements to graduate are the completion of the APFT with 80% in each event and six pull-ups, the five-mile run in 40 minutes or less, and a 12-mile foot march in less than three hours with a 35-pound ruck sack. The candidates are also evaluated on their swim ability and graded on the Ranger Physical Aptitude Test (RPAT), while being introduced to the Ranger Athlete Warrior (RAW) program.

Although Rangers sometimes joke about their peers being classified as strong Rangers or smart Rangers, the ideal Ranger has a combination of both. Mental aptitude and agility are vital in a unit that conducts small and large-scale operations that can come with no notice. Rangers must have the ability and resiliency to deal with complex problems, worst-case scenarios, and catastrophic events. To enter into RASP 1, candidates must possess a minimum general technical (GT) score of 105. They will also be screened through a physical exam, psychological evaluation, and a background check.

Resiliency is taught through the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) course and the tools obtained are used by the candidates to achieve their goal of becoming a Ranger. The Regiment uses multiple feedback mechanisms to assess each candidate's mental aptitude. These include day and night land navigation, which evaluates attention to detail on multiple skill level one tasks, as well as Ranger history and standards tests.

Although these events are critical to passing the course, the concern is not if the candidate can navigate to a known point on the ground or even understand Ranger history. The goal is to determine if the candidate can receive the information presented to him through multiple repetitions and apply it — is he trainable?

A major deficit in our Army from the most junior private to our most senior leadership is self-awareness. If Soldiers are given a thorough 360-degree assessment in the early stages of their career, they have a much better chance of correcting deficiencies and expounding on their strengths as they develop into a leader. Whether a graduate or a failure, all candidates receive feedback and the Army as a whole benefits from this process.

Boards are conducted during week three and seven of the course and are chaired by the company commander and first sergeant. All facets of their performance in the course are addressed, to include peer evaluations. The purpose of this board is to give the candidate feedback, but some candidates could be recycled or dropped from the course based on their performance or any issues that develop during the board.

a paratrooper navigates a low-crawl obstacle

As the course progresses beyond individual Ranger skills, each candidate's stress level becomes elevated by coupled events that test the candidate’s ability to complete a task while either physically exhausted or overwhelmed by information replicating combat stress and training resiliency. These tasks include a 7-mile foot march into a land navigation test, airborne operation into medical testing, 8-mile foot march into a medical trauma lane, and a field training exercise with little sleep. Candidates must be able to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission regardless of the complexity of the situation.

With senior enlisted, promotion rates typically double that of the regular Army and with 33 current command sergeants major having previous regimental experience, the regiment has proven to produce strong leaders. The genesis of this success is the RASP 1 course that opens the regimental doors to so many talented, disciplined, intelligent, and resilient men.

As stated by the sixth colonel of the regiment during Operation Just Cause in Panama, “When the fight was joined, success or failure was in the hands of the young Rangers and Ranger team leaders.” These men are the reason the 75th Ranger Regiment remains at the tip of the spear for the special operations fight in Afghanistan, and the reason the RASP program remains the priority for the regiment.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, I recommend you take the time to read the book Back in the Fight by one of our RASP 2 cadre, Sgt. 1st Class Joe Kapacziewski or visit the following websites:

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