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March 22, 2013

The Difference Between Rangers and Special Forces

“Big dumb Ranger stomping through the woods,” a retired Sergeant Major from 5th Special Forces Group said with a smirk to me after an After Action Review in Robin Sage. Robin Sage is the culmination exercise at the end of the Special Forces Qualification Course, basically your final exam prior to donning the Green Beret.

I rolled my eyes at Kevin as I shook my head. I was pissed, but not because Kevin was breaking my balls, rather I was irritated with myself because I knew that he was right. We were instructed to conduct an ambush in the fictional nation of Pineland (actually located in North Carolina) and I was walking point. Getting angry with some of the junior guys on the team because of a land navigation error, I told them to shut up and follow me. I charged off through the woods and made enough noise that the role players guarding the road we were supposed to ambush heard us.

What happened after that was everything not described in the Ranger Handbook. Blank fire was popping off every where and I ordered Kevin, playing an Arab foreign fighter attached to our team, to fire his AT4 Anti-Tank rocket. In real life, the rocket would not have even armed because we were so close to the “enemy,” but I figured it would scare the hell out of them if nothing else.

Going from this in Ranger Battalion... (w/ Isaiah Burkhart)

Going from this in Ranger Battalion… (w/Isaiah Burkhart)

When we maneuvered up to the road, there were “bodies” laying everywhere. We were supposed to ambush an enemy supply truck at a specific time, but with our patrol compromised and the shootout that ensued, it didn’t look like we would be completing that objective anytime soon. Big facepalm moment for yours truly.

It was the youngest guy on our Robin Sage team that suggested to me that we just hide the “bodies” in the bushes and set up our own checkpoint, masquerading as the enemy when the supply truck came through. He was an 18-Xray, one of the kids who was able to come in right off the street and into the Special Forces pipeline. While I was still thinking Ranger School, this guy grasped the unconventional warfare mission faster.

Damn, that was a good idea! It worked perfectly. We stashed the “dead” role players in the bushes, set up a checkpoint, and captured the supply truck.

To this in Special Forces...

To this in Special Forces…

Kevin’s words stuck with me. Being a Special Forces soldier requires a very different mentality than being a Ranger but I still had a hard time shaking off old habits. In Ranger Battalion everything is usually dress right dress, and done to THE STANDARD. When you attempt to graft this work ethic onto the unconventional warfare mission it simply does not work. Yelling at indigenous troops and demanding that they behave like Americans will get you no where. Expecting them to perform like American Light Infantry is also ridicules.

Stomping off into the woods while on patrol isn’t a good idea regardless of what unit you are in, but being a hot head is even less effective while running Special Forces missions.

The point of this article isn’t to ask which unit is better or make some childish comparison. The Ranger Regiment and Special Forces are different, and what I hope to point out is that they have to be different. This difference stems from the fact that they have different missions that require different approaches.

More to follow on that later…

About the Author

is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he graduated from Columbia with a BA in political science. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, Direct Action, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

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  • Walter Gipson

    Camo_Steve These guys were my 18B instructors. Funny as hell. It was always a challenge not to laugh at their shit to avoid their attention.

  • Walter Gipson

    JackMurphyRGR traumamama HAHA. Jack I remember that now! Totally forgot. Remind me to share the story with you about a meeting conducted during Sage. It resulted in a lovers quarrel and a chick whom I convinced to kill her boyfriend once I realized he was a bad dude and was going to turn on us. He didn't see it coming. Snatch and grabbed all his supplies, ditched the lady and then attempt to move more supplies through the woods than we could carry by moving it 100m at a time running back and forth. Redacting a few details of course involving an X-ray who was clearly a virgin from the way he handled a situation and a lightweight at that. Great times.

  • JackMurphyRGR

    ajgamble You are referring to my friend Faisal?

  • HonestBroker247

    Chuck_Doofe What the Marine Corps "wants" doesn't have a thing to do with it.  Needed on call SOF capability, the SECDEF dropped the Snowflake that directed the formation of MARSOC under USSOCOM... and, like Marines, the Corps saluted and made it happen.   (Though many didn't like doing it ... kicking and screaming were sometimes involved)

  • ajgamble

    Anyone notice the hajjis shirt says fashion on it? Lol high fashion indeed.