The 75th Ranger Regiment is known for raising its own. Often, privates enter the Army’s premier Special Operations direct action unit right out of high school only to depart years, and even decades, later.

Recently, and after 24 years of service with the Regiment, Command Sergeant Major Michael D. Albaugh, the Regimental Sergeant Major of the unit, relinquished command and moved on to another job in the Army (Command Sergeant Major of the Special Operations Command-Africa). Before he left, SGM Albaugh sat down for another interview with the Regiment’s Public Affairs office. His words offer a glimpse of an extraordinary career but also of how the Regiment has evolved since the Global War on Terror (GWOT) began.

CSM Albaugh wasn’t the typical Ranger recruit, most new Rangers are young, with the average age in the Regiment being 24-years-old. The outgoing CSM, however, was 27 when he joined and with a college degree under his belt (nowadays, most Rangers have some sort of college education).

One of the struggles of joining the Army in the 90s, when CSM Albaugh enlisted, was the lack of information about units and selections processes. “Social media wasn’t a thing, there wasn’t a lot of public press,” said CSM Albaugh. “But I knew that there were these Army Rangers and that they were these elite, tough guys, and did this special mission.”

“When I was a private in the Rangers, I was just trying to keep up with everybody physically and mentally, learn my job, and not get Released for Standards,” Albaugh laughed. “The RSM? That’s just some mystical creature out there somewhere. You know he exists, you heard about him, but you’re never going to be that guy.”

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Since 2001, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael D. Albaugh (Pictured second from the left) has deployed multiple times as a Ranger in support of overseas contingency operations to both Afghanistan and Iraq.  (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

Colonel Todd Brown said about CSM Albaugh’s departure that the Regiment is in a better state because of his leadership and “not just from his service these past two years but from his service the past two decades. CSM Albaugh has had a tremendous impact on combat operations, training, and growing the Ranger Regiment. He will continue to make a tremendous impact to the Joint Force in his pending assignment.”

Aside from the usual responsibilities and opportunities that come with being the most senior enlisted man in a unit, the position of the Regimental Sergeant Major in the 75th Ranger Regiment has an additional gravity given the unit’s unofficial status as a role-model for the rest of the Army. When the Rangers battalions were reactivated back in the 1970s, one of the purposes of the Army’s leadership was to create a unit that would embody the Army values – that is one of the reasons behind the infatuation of Ranger leadership with discipline and grooming standards. And since then, a lot of tactical and operational innovations that took place within the unit trickled down the to the rest of the Army. The senior enlisted Ranger, therefore, can affect change, albeit indirectly, to the rest of the Army, or at least to the light infantry formations.

But there are also the ‘in-house’ opportunities for change. In the initial phases of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) Sergeant Major Greg “Ironhead” Birch made the jump from Delta Force to the Ranger Regiment, from where he had begun his career. His experience with the Army’s Tier 1 Special Missions Unit proved invaluable to the Rangers for he affected change to the Regiment and helped it mold into the organization that it is today.

For several years now, the 75th Ranger Regiment has been undertaking missions of national-level importance that would previously be given only to either Delta Force or SEAL Team Six. The unrelenting operational tempo, of course, played a significant part in Regiments “coming of age” but the capability was already there.