This is part two of two of “Officers at Ranger School.” Read Part I here.
4. Be prepared
Contrary to popular belief, Ranger School is not much of a “school” at all. It’s more of an assessment. Yes, you do receive classes in how to do most every task that you are graded on. The instructors will take you through a crawl-walk-run methodology when it comes to planning and executing patrols in the manner they want. However, starting on Day 1, you are put through the ringer physically and mentally. You aren’t eating and sleeping nearly enough for your brain to function at a peak level. It is therefore not a learning environment. Do not bank on learning anything from the course itself, you should show up to the course already familiar with everything they will test you on. That includes “Ranger Stakes” tasks like loading and filling a radio, or operating a M-249 machine gun, or how to execute land navigation.
Talk to guys who have already passed the course. Read the Ranger Handbook cover to cover. Pick up this book, it was very accurate and helped me a lot as I did the ‘academic’ prep required.
5. Graduate or Die Trying
Here is another unfortunate reality for young infantry officers: your career rides on that little tab. It sounds insane, and it is, but it is the truth nonetheless. While I was a cadet, many of my peers who had commissioned ahead of me were saying stuff like “the tab doesn’t matter that much, getting to your unit as fast as possible and deploying means more.” I can understand that mentality, as pretty much everyone can go to Ranger School eventually, and not everyone gets a combat deployment opportunity. But, for an infantry officer, the tab is far more important than the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB), in terms of your career advancement. Let’s be real, I know guys who got CIB’s for a rocket landing harmlessly on their FOB while they were asleep. Their CIB was essentially accidental. The guy looking at your Officer Record Brief (ORB) five years from now will have no idea if your CIB was from going hand-to-hand with Taliban and killing one with an E-tool, or whether you were racked out while a rocket flew harmlessly overhead. No one can accidentally graduate from Ranger School.
I approached Ranger School with the mentality that I was going to graduate, or die. That sounds dramatic, but having a “do or die” attitude is kind of necessary. You may not get a chance again! You may become injured, have some family issue down the road, or any number of reasons. Also, if you do fail patrols, or need to be recycled for whatever reason, if the Ranger Instructors see you as someone who is going to keep trying until they die, they are more likely to give you another shot at passing the course.
6. Bask in eternal glory
That’s it. You graduated. Revel in your success forever. Tell stories about your time in the school for years afterwards, with each retelling becoming more and more elaborate and absurd than before. No one can take the experience away from you! (Although they can revoke your tab if you do something outrageous later in your career.)
Oh yeah, the push-up rumors are true. My Ranger Instructor whispered into my ear that he would only count reps if he could hear and see my chest bump the ground. I’m fairly certain there is no regulation anywhere that requires an audible chest bumping noise on each rep, but there I was, at 0400 in the morning on Day 0, doing as he instructed. Rangers Lead The Way!
Image courtesy of 5th Ranger Training Battalion