When the 75th Ranger Regiment was officially established way back in 1984, along with a third Ranger battalion, another unit was created in its shadow: the Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment, or simply RRD. The unit’s original purpose was to provide “operational preparation of the environment” in support of any future/upcoming Ranger engagements. Somewhere down the road, that mission statement evolved into providing special reconnaissance capabilities not just for the Rangers, but for special operations units within JSOC as well. I’m sure that’s about the time when things got really interesting for the boys on the teams.
When I was with 3/75, many of us looked at these guys with a similar sense of awe and respect as we did with our big brothers over at Bragg. It was no easy feat to make it into RRD as 1.) They had a selection course which was widely known as “Mini-CAG Selection” (and for good reason), and 2.) There were only so many slots as there are only three RRD teams (one for each Ranger battalion), and retention was much higher.
For the majority of the unit’s existence, the only candidates eligible for operational duty were Ranger infantrymen with a good amount of E-6 time (Squad Leaders). Fast forward to 2007, the unit underwent a structural overhaul as it increased the number of its support billets (and possibly operational billets) and changed its name to the Regimental Reconnaissance Company now under the Special Troops Battalion. The current selection process is two weeks long and is administered in an undisclosed location somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia. RRDs selection course, consisting of long distance land navigation with heavy rucksacks, is heavily influenced by Delta’s own month-long assessment and selection course. Upon the successful completion of selection, the candidates undertake the 29-week long training course which includes military free-fall, advanced communications, digital photography, computers, photo editing, field-craft and stalks, infiltration and exfiltration methods, close-air support, advanced driving techniques, demolitions, advanced medical techniques, and tactical man-tracking.
As of 2007, RRD (now RRC) has opened its selection process to any male soldier who is both Ranger School and Airborne qualified and a graduate of Fort Benning’s Reconnaissance Surveillance Leaders Course (RSLC). This change in policy was put into effect in order to expand the pool of possible candidates, which specifically would target the Long Range Surveillance (LRS) units of the Conventional Army. It was also around this timeframe that the unit was rumored to have been operationally moved under JSOC.
RRD has been utilized numerous times over the years in support of Ranger operations. If the Rangers were involved, be certain RRD was there as well. It’s also interesting to mention that RRD deployed in 1994 in support of Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti and also in 2000 as part of Task Force Falcon, Kosovo – neither of which saw the deployment of any Ranger Battalion elements.
Since 9/11, specifically in Afghanistan, RRD has been used extensively in combat operations. The capabilities that these teams provide to the battlefield commanders immediately led to RRD being “outsourced” to support all JSOC operations in theater, not just Ranger ones. It was this battlefield development that led the Rangers to create the Battalion Recce Platoons (part of Battalion Headquarters) circa 2004 – 2005.
In Afghanistan, RRD has conducted four combat jumps: RRD Team 3 conducted a combat free-fall jump on 10 November 2001 in order to establish a Flight Landing Strip. RRD Team 3 conducted a second combat free-fall jump in July 2004 in order to emplace tactical equipment. RRD Team 3 also conducted a static-line combat jump on 21 November 2001. And recently, RRC Team 1 conducted a combat free-fall jump on 11 July 2009. Those are just the jumps de-classified by the Department of Defense.
While there is SOME overlap in capabilities and operational responsibility with the folks over at the Intelligence Support Activity and the Recce Troops in CAG, none of those two assets can offer to the overall fight what RRD can in terms of reconnaissance capabilities. A personal favorite phrase I like to use is, “a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none”. This applies to our everyday life and it absolutely applies to the special operations community to an even greater extent. The already combat-proven Rangers who make it into RRD become the absolute masters of their trade in special reconnaissance operations.