Airmen aspiring to attend and complete the suckfest called Ranger School have to first complete an assessment course that evaluates their potential and prepares them for the real deal.

The Air Force Ranger Assessment Course has been around for a few years. It is a three-week course that sharpens basic soldiering tasks, including land navigation, troop movements, marksmanship, rucking, and weapon and radio maintenance.

During the last iteration of the course, which took place last November, Technical Sergeant Keegan Donnelly, the Ranger Assessment Course program manager, had said: “The Ranger Assessment Course strives to meet the intent of senior military leaders by fielding a lethal, resilient and rapidly adapting joint force. [It builds] competent, agile and lethal Airmen capable of operating in austere, as well as joint, denied or degraded and built-up environments. Rangers [learn] how to lead when things go wrong [by] guiding themselves and their men through fatigue, stress, hunger and controlled chaos.”

Most Army units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment, have a similar “pre-Ranger” course to prepare their soldiers for the physical, mental, and emotional rigors of Ranger School.

Members of other branches (with the exception of the Marine Corps) are bound to experience more difficulties in Ranger School because of their inherent unfamiliarity with basic soldiership (for example, rucking and land navigation).

“We conduct training that deals with weapons, small-unit tactics and stress management,” added Tech Sgt Donnelly. “We assess five components: the physical training test, combat water survival, land navigation, numerous ruck marches between five and 12 miles and ranger training tasks, which help develop students and prepare them to survive the first week of Ranger School and beyond.”

Senior Airman Zachary Dominguez, an Air Force Ranger Assessment Course student, aims down his sight Nov. 15, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The course teaches students critical tasks such as land navigation, troop movements and shooting and maintaining weapons. Over the course of 19 days, the Ranger Assessment Course evaluates students to determine if they possess the knowledge, willpower, and skill to attend Army Ranger School. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Azaria E. Foster)

Ranger School is the military’s premier leadership course. It is open to all branches, military occupational specialties (MOS), and ranks — the average candidate, however, is an Army junior officer or non-commissioned officer. During its 62-day duration, Ranger School teaches students the dark arts of small unit tactics, patrolling, ambushing, and direct action. The School is divided into three phases: Benning phase, Mountain phase, and Swamp (or Florida) phase.

A common mistake that people make about Ranger School is that they confuse it with the 75th Ranger Regiment. The 75th RR is the military’s premier light infantry Special Operations force. Any Ranger aspiring to a leadership position within the Regiment (team leader and above) must attend and complete Ranger School. 75th RR Rangers are considered SOF; servicemembers who have passed Ranger School from any other non-SOF units are not.