When I got a slot for Army Ranger School, I was pretty excited to go. Keep in mind: I was a 19 year old Marine that was in the best shape of my life. I really thought that everyone in the Army went to Ranger School, so I just figured it’d be some good training and that was that. I was a bit wrong.
Recon Battalion is tasked with pre-raid reconnaissance in support of Marine Infantry Battalions, so going to a raid school made sense. I didn’t train in preparation, but instead put on about 5 pounds of fat -a lot of McD’s and Pizza. At the time I went, Recon Bn didn’t have slots to Airborne School, so the only way to get your wings was to first go to Ranger. So, I had to make it straight through with no recycles in order to head over to jump. I checked in and I will say the first week was a complete blur. I didn’t really remember much until I saw the “Surviving the Cut: Ranger School” episode, which refreshed my lack of memory. The one thing I do remember is that I got to wear my nice toasty warm Danner boots, since the Marine Corps had just started issuing them; bonus for me.
Once the course was in full swing, I got used to a few things reserved for the Marine students. First off, regardless of what rank you are, you are referred to as “Gunny”. The RI’s (Ranger instructors) told me that they just thought it was a really cool sounding rank. The other name they were quite fond of was “Square Hat”, obviously a reference to the Marine Corps cover. And finally, the worst part was having to march the class to chow, when in the rear, and call cadence like a Drill Instructor. I did figure out a few things to return the favors. I pulled out every single piece of Naval lingo I could come up with and used it at every single opportunity. Words like deck, bulkhead, topside, cover, and head confused the heck out of the RI’s. Another noticeable difference between the Army and Marines was the way rank is addressed. In the Army, regardless of what rank you are above E-5, you’re a Sergeant. In the Marine Corps, you address superiors by their actual rank (ie E-6 is a Staff Sgt, E-7 is a Gunnery Sgt, etc). So, of course I addressed all of the RI’s as their actual rank, and they were quite fond of this. I recall hearing many times, “That’s what I’m talking about; I’m a Staff Sergeant, not a Sergeant!”
Trying to be the “gray man” in an Army School as the only Marine in the class was absolutely impossible. So, I basically had to always be on my A-Game, since eyes were always on me. This was especially applicable in Florida phase. Since it was a lot of amphibious/swamp work with Zodiac boats, I was expected to outperform the other students being this was my background. I did set an unofficial Ranger School record during this phase. I’ve been told I used the F-Bomb more than 18 times in a 30 second statement as the Class Leader. I’m sure the Marine Corps is quite proud of this.
All in all, Ranger School was a great experience for me. The training was exceptional and I was well versed in the art of raids and ambushes, something I took back to my team. The leadership skills you learn are intangible. It’s not formal instruction on leadership, but basically getting thrown into the mix and being forced to lead men. Another overlooked asset of being a tabbed Marine, is the ability to relate to your Army brothers when doing joint exercises. So, all of the Marines out there that think Ranger School has nothing to offer, think again.
I did make it straight through class 7-96 with no recycles and earned my Tab. My Ranger Tab was proudly worn in its rightful place – underneath the pocket flap on my cammies.
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