There I was, a brand new E-2 in 3rd Ranger Battalion.  I had been there maybe two months when the Battalion Sergeant Major told our Company First Sergeant that A/co was not sending enough of our guys to Ranger School.  We were light on tabbed Spec-4s at the time.  So, in accordance with the Sergeant Major’s wishes, all the non-tabbed enlisted men in the company were sent to Peden Field to take a PT test.

The top performers would get to go to pre-Ranger and then Ranger School.  I was probably the most cherry guy in the company at that time and was no stellar performer as I had already racked up a summarized Article 15, but everyone without a tab had to go take the PT test.  I was a 19 years old at the time and being super motivated helped make up for my lack of job competence.  I maxed out the PT test and by decree, was then sent to Regimental pre-Ranger.

Holy shit, did that suck.  My ordeal there was even worse by virtue of the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.  Having only been in Ranger Battalion for a few months, I was tactically inept and had zero leadership abilities.  I was a good Private despite the occasional fuck ups, but that was about it.  I certainly wasn’t ready for what has been called the hardest school in the Army.  As you can imagine, I struggled through Ranger School.  I got recycled in Darby Phase because the ink on my map sheet bled when it got wet in the rain.  I had the correct hole punch, proving that I had found my point on the Land Nav course, but the number of the point that I had wrote down was illegible.  “At this time you are a no-go at this station Ranger.”  FML.

I got to recycle but had to wait until the next class started after Christmas exodus.  I think RTB kept us around just so they had some scrubs on hand to do details.  Waxing and buffing floors, trash details, polishing brass door knobs (seriously) and that sort of thing.  The hold-over/recycle platoon was called Vaghn’s Platoon, but I figured that I was there so long that they should have renamed it Murphy’s platoon.

While there, an RI caught us stashing Playboys in a monopoly board game box in the barracks.  He kept screaming at us for violating the rules and while chewing our ass he would say things like, “why did you have pornographical materials in the barracks?!”  “You know you are not supposed to have pornographical materials!”  “Pornographical materials are against RTB rules as clearly stated in blah, blah, blah.”  I thought it was hilarious that he kept repeating the word “pornographical.”  When the RI caught me smiling he smoked the whole platoon.

Anyway, we did get two weeks of Christmas exodus.  When we came back I started up Ranger School again and soon found myself patrolling the forests of Ft. Benning.  In Darby Phase you are graded on squad-based patrols.  Some RIs are very professional and do a great job at teaching, coaching, and mentoring.  But they are also evaluating you and it isn’t their job to bake you cupcakes and give you attaboys.  Well, except for this one abnormality called “The Golden Patrol.”  The Golden Patrol is sort of a myth and legend.  It goes like this: a Ranger Instructor has been assigned to Ranger School for several years, and before he gets re-assigned somewhere else, probably back in the Infantry, he will do something special on the final patrol he grades.

I kind of thought it was bullshit, and the notion was the furthest thing from my mind.  Like I said, I was motivated but clueless when it came to patrols.  I knew it and was sure I was fucked, but as per the Ranger Creed I wasn’t allowed to quit.  I’d give my best effort in the meantime.

One morning a new RI comes on duty to grade my squad on their patrols.  My name gets called for a team leader position; in other words, I’m in the hot seat and will be graded today.  If I fail, I’ll probably recycle again.  That or get kicked out of the school entirely.  Our patrol moved out in a wedge formation and maybe got 100 meters before our new RI started throwing artillery simulators.  They whistle and then go bang like fireworks do.  Whenever a Ranger patrol comes under indirect fire they have to conduct a battle drill called, you guessed it, “react to indirect fire.”  You hit the ground until the simulated fire explodes, then get up and haul ass as fast as you can to get out of the killzone.  Note: this is difficult to do while carrying a hundred pounds of gear.  You have to keep running and bounding until you reach a covered and concealed position.  Whenever we did, our patrol would then get hit with another arty sim from the RI.