The Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment, or RRD, was stood up in October of 1984 as a small element within the 75th Ranger Regiment. RRD would work directly for the Regimental Commander, and help fill the intelligence gaps that he and his S2 (Intelligence Officer) had when planning upcoming combat operations which the Ranger Regiment was to participate in.

By 1995, RRD consisted of three recon teams, each composed of six Rangers in the tradition of the Vietnam-era LRRP/Ranger patrols.  Each team would be tasked to conduct reconnaissance for each of the three Ranger battalions.  Team 1 would support 1st Ranger Battalion, Team 2 supported 2nd Ranger Battalion, and Team 3 would support 3rd Ranger Battalion.  The Team Leader of each team could be a Sergeant First Class (E-7), but more often than not it was a Staff Sergeant (E-6).  A six-man Headquarters element consisted of the RRD Commander, a Captain (O-3), an NCOIC who was a First Sergeant (E-8), two communications NCOs, a training NCO and an Operations NCO.  Housed within the 75th Ranger Regiment, RRD would take their taskings from the Regimental S2 Officer.

RRD’s nearly sole purpose in life was training to conduct recon operations on enemy airfields. Laying up in hide sites, they could eyeball the enemy’s defensive measures, analyze terrain, observe enemy troop movements, and record weather reports, all of which could be radioed back to the rear.  But RRD also carried with it a bit of a stigma at this time. In the 1990s, and well into the Global War on Terror, it could be hard to get young Ranger Sergeants to support RRD by trying out for selection.

In the Regiment, the ultimate goal of many Rangers is to become a Platoon Sergeant in one of the rifle companies. It is a position put up on a pedestal and rightly so.  However, because of this, many felt that going over to RRD would upset their career progression and ruin their chances of getting promoted, and potentially taking a platoon. There were also a lot of negative rumors about RRD during the mid-90s, many arising from the recon teams often getting compromised during training.

What many young Rangers didn’t realize was that the Regiment was encouraging RRD to push the envelop in training to see what was possible and what they could get away with.

In the process of this, their recon missions were often compromised in training, but this allowed the recon teams to learn from their mistakes and figure out what their own capabilities were. Special Operations didn’t just come into being the way it is today in 2013, there were a lot of growing pains and a lot of on-the-job training that took place.

Another issue with getting Rangers to try out for RRD is that, let’s face it, most Rangers are door-kicking muldoons, and recon isn’t for everyone.

Things began to change for RRD after a Joint Readiness Exercise (JRX) in early 1997.

During JRX there were many insertion platforms available to insert RRD teams, some highly sensitive. The distinctive “high and tight” Ranger haircut and military uniforms precluded RRD teams from utilizing these assets, and therefore prevented them from participating in the JRX. Needless to say, this did not sit well with the Regimental Commander.

For a moment it looked like RRD might be out of a job and another unit such as the Intelligence Support Activity might have to be brought in to conduct some of these reconnaissance tasks. The Regimental Commander, Colonel William Leszczynski, would not have it. He told RRD that he wanted Ranger eyes on Ranger targets because they knew the Ranger job and mission better than anyone, and would know what information to pass up to higher during a recon. He instructed RRD to take another look at their Table of Organization and Equipment, Mission Essential Task List, their selection process, and training profile. The Regimental Commander told them to make whatever changes they needed to stay relevant and stay in the game.

Three Staff Sergeants in RRD were charged with this project. The first change: lose the high and tights. The traditional Ranger haircut was only decreasing their level of flexibility, so RRD went to regular Army AR 670-1 hair standards.

Next, two RRD members overhauled the selection process. One of the two had been to another Special Operations selection course previously and saw how they ran things. This inspired them to use land navigation as a tool to test and select RRD candidates. Land Navigation while carrying a rucksack is often used in Special Operations selection programs, not so much to test LandNav skills, but to use it as a stressor to see how candidates perform when they are tired and alone in the wilderness.

Previously, RRD selection was a PT test, a roadmarch, an interview with a psychologist, and a board review. Now, RRD was scouting locations in Dahlonega, Georga to set up land navigation lanes for the revamped selection course. This was coordinated with 5th Ranger Training Brigade, which runs the much-loved Mountain Phase of Ranger School, for billeting, use of the chow halls, etc… for RRD candidates in selection. Candidates had to reach several points each day, rucking their way with a map and compass. There really wasn’t a time standard that they had to meet, it was simply to see how the students operated on their own with no feedback. Other tested events included Keep In Memory (KIMs) games.

Once the candidates reached their final point on the Land Navigation course, they were instructed to get into a van and were driven to a location where they would then have to conduct a final graded task, a low-visibility recon training operation.

Ranger assigned to secretive reconnaissance unit dies in free-fall accident

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At the conclusion of the selection course, the candidates would then be permitted to relax until they were interviewed by a JSOC psychologist, and were then given an evaluation board by RRD to decide whether or not they wanted to select the candidate.

Once selected, the Ranger in question would attend the Recon Training Course, or RTC, to become an Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment team member. The course started at the beginning by teaching how to build hide sites, use radios, and other critical skills.  Meanwhile, the NCOs in RRD were pushing to get some missions dropped from the unit’s Mission Essential Task List. For instance, each Recon Team had two slots for combat divers. This seemed like an unnecessary training burden on the teams when they already had many other capabilities to maintain, ones they were much more likely to use, such as HALO, now known as Military Free Fall. Eventually, the combat diver mission was scrapped.

RTC also included a cumulative exercise at the end of the course. The trainers were also lobbying the Regimental headquarters for driving training, including civilian vehicles, and a clothing allowance, since they were wearing civilian clothes more and more often.  They also wanted to grow from 18 operators to 24, in order to create an addition Recon Team.

Things were changing fast and RRD found itself slowly becoming a JSOC asset rather than a 75th Ranger Regiment asset.

Many are now aware that JSOC was conducting snatch and grab operations in Bosnia in the late 1990s. What most people are not aware of is that RRD Rangers were also attached to their JSOC counterparts in country. While a full RRD Recon Team never deployed to Bosnia to look for war criminals, they did deploy as singletons. One mission in Bosnia was simple familiarization with the terrain, which saw RRD and JSOC operators driving around the country in 10 day spans simply to become acquainted with what would be their operational environment.

Another change to how RRD operated was that they began bringing Air Force TACPs with them on their recon missions. During an airfield seizure, a TACP could control aircraft, a valuable skill set to have on the ground with them. Previously, TACPs would be assigned to the Ranger Regiment at random, including Air Force guys straight out of the pipeline.  This changed, and RRD only worked with TACPs out of 2-1 STS who were more experienced in operations. One of these talented Airmen was Brian Daly, who, sadly, died while working as a Military Free Fall parachute instructor in Yuma, Arizona during a training accident in 1996.

RRD continued to grow in leaps and bounds, their hard work paying off when they were officially bumped up to become a JSOC asset sometime around 2005. The unit has now been re-designated the Regimental Reconnaissance Company or RRC. The information in this article is an important part of Ranger history, but the details are now obsolete from a intelligence standpoint. The details of RRC will have to remain undisclosed for this reason.