The Army National Guard has been experimenting with a new approach when it comes to sending troops to Ranger School.

Instead of sending just experienced troops in the arduous leadership course, the Army National Guard has implemented an initiative that sees fresh recruits out of basic training attending one of the toughest courses in the military. And judging by the results of the most recent class, the initiative seems to be paying off.

Six young National Guardsmen successfully pinned the coveted Ranger Tab on their shoulders in the last class of this year. There were a total of 14 National Guardsmen graduates, two of who were women. Overall, the class had an attrition rate of close to 60 percent.

“Having the opportunity straight out of basic, when I had really no major life responsibilities to worry about or deal with, I decided to just take this semester off from school and try my best to get the Ranger tab now, in this block of time before Christmas, and it paid off,” said Private First Class Reagan Abbey, Wisconsin Army National Guard.

Ranger School is the military’s premier leadership course and it is open to all military occupational specialties (MOS) and ranks (sometimes service members from other branches also attend Ranger School). It is a 62-day-long course that teaches students the dark arts of small unit tactics, patrolling, ambushing and direct action. It’s divided into three phases: the Darby phase, the Mountain phase and the Swamp phase.

Ranger School shouldn’t be confused with the 75th Ranger Regiment, which is the military’s premier light infantry Special Operations force. Members of the 75th Ranger Regiment have to attend Ranger School if they wish to remain in the unit and hold a leadership position.

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U.S. Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, Pennsylvania National Guard 166th Regional Training Institute Medical Battalion Training Site instructor, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer currently serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, graduate U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2019, as the first National Guard enlisted females to complete the leadership school.

Your normal Ranger School candidate is a junior or non-commissioned officer with at least a few years in uniform.

“It greatly helped me, just building on what I learned in basic, learning to become an Infantryman, now the RTLI was trying to build that Ranger mindset, as well as preparing me for the physical tests that were going to come. In Ranger School, we preach discipline and standards, and I want to bring that back to my unit, as well as just any knowledge that I’ve learned here, whether it’s about just OPORDS or planning or running missions, and anything related to that that I can bring back,” added Pfc Abbey.

A few years ago, Ranger School was suffering from a considerable drought in candidates. The perpetual combat deployments had caused conventional junior NCOs to actively elude a slot in the School: Conventional army deployments are longer than that of Special Operations units. The former tend to range from 12 to 18 months, whereas the latter tend to last for 4 to 6 months. The last thing young sergeants, who just got back from a year-long deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, would want was to spend two months hating life in Ranger School.

Since then, attendance rates have improved as combat deployments have eased off.