Today’s modern Ranger Battalions were first established in 1974 as America’s premier Airborne Light Infantry unit which would be a part of America’s new and growing Special Operations capability. The unit would be specially trained and selected in order to maintain high standards and serve as a role model for the rest of the Army.
With this in mind, 1st Ranger Battalion was stood up as was its selection program called the Ranger Indoctrination Program, or RIP. Soon after when 2nd Ranger Battalion would activated, they too began their own RIP for incoming and prospective Rangers.
After graduating from Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training, and Airborne School, those enlisted soldiers who wish to join the ranks of the 75th Ranger Regiment then attend the Ranger’s selection program. This is a brief history of that program and how it has evolved from the early days up to the present.
Former 1/75 Ranger Mingo Kane had this to say about his experience going through RIP in 1984:
“First week, run…run, PT, road march, run…get screamed at, run…flutter kicks, run. Not a lot of sleep…it was pretty much to weed out the weaker students…
Hand to hand was nothing more than getting your ass kicked, everything revolved around punishment…elevating your feet shoulder height to knock out push ups when you fucked up, which was often…
I gotta say, I never knew a human fucking being could run like they did in RIP…fuckers [cadre] were beasts. The chow hall was a good ways off, you ran there, ate in 45 seconds and ran back….you had to read the [Ranger] handbook every down second of time, no laying around on bunks at night shooting the shit, you were exhausted anyway…
I think we started out with something like 26 and graduated something like 6…one year later I was the only one left in 1st Batt (Frances Elder was killed in Panama).”
One of Mingo’s fellow RIP students had a father who was a Lieutenant Colonel. When his son called to tell his dad that he was thinking about quitting RIP, his father told him, “If you quit, don’t you ever cross the Mason/Dixon line north ever again.”
“The obstacle course was the worse ever…nothing even close, not the Queen, Green Hell, nothing…fuckers [cadre] made you bear crawl to each obstacle, negotiate it, then crab crawl to the next….of course when you finished you didn’t do it fast enough and had to go back through it…
I hated that, hated it with a passion…even when you drew all your gear (3 duffel bags) they road marched your ass to the Battalion area…and then the cherry hazing began…I participated in ‘The Toughest Cherry’ contest nightly wearing UDT trunks and a white steel pot with two red cherries painted on it…
I truly hated those nights…BUT…I will not trade it for anything, it made me realize that no matter how bad things may get for me, I have been through worse and survived because I did not quit…and to this day, I can still recite the Ranger Creed, word for word, without fail…They burned the Creed into your mind from day one, you learned very quickly that your life revolved around that Creed and the high standard of excellence.”
In 1985, the Ranger Indoctrination Program was consolidated at Ft. Benning in order to have a single level of standardization across all three Ranger Battalions. Additionally, it was cheaper to have one compound, one set of cadre, and one curriculum than have each battalion conduct RIP individually. Cadre were selected by First Sergeant George Conrad from each of the three battalions and the first Regimental RIP class began in spring of 1985.
One early Regimental-level RIP class (12-87) started with 56 students and only had three remaining by the third day of the course after the 12-mile road march. Other events included daily physical training, map reading, land navigation, Ranger history classes, swim test, tactical training, and parachute jumps.
Runs started at four miles and progressed to six to be run at a pace of six minutes per mile. Those who could not hang in the formation would be released from the course. These early RIP classes lasted for four weeks but later RIP was decreased to a three week course of instruction.
This author attended RIP in June of 2003. As Staff Sergeant Phipps explained to us while waiting to begin RIP, it was not the cadre’s job to smoke us but rather they gave the students a task, conditions, and standards. If we failed to meet those standards then we would be “physically corrected.”
Graded events included the PT test, the Combat Water Survival Test, 5-mile run, 12-mile ruck march, Ranger history test, psychological evaluation, and Land Navigation. Other training events that students had to pass was fast rope training from the 45-foot tower and Ranger First Responder (medical) training. The most dreaded portion of RIP was four days spent out at Cole Range where Land Navigation training took place.
At Cole Range, RIP students were taught how to navigate with a map and compass through the forest both during the day and at night. While not participating in the land navigation exercises, students were treated to combatives training, learning how to establish patrol bases, or partaking in some of the “physical correction” that they had heard so much about.
The most motivating aspect of RIP was how fast all the jokers who don’t belong in the 75th Ranger Regiment start disappearing. Those who can’t meet standards are released from the course. Those who lack self confidence voluntarily withdraw from the course. Showboaters and spotlighters are physically corrected and shown the door. Students who fail to pay attention to detail are released from the course. Show up to Monday morning formation without a fresh haircut? Gone. Lose a 2 quart canteen? Gone.
RIP was a hellacious course, but a great experience for young soldiers and when you stood in formation upon graduation you knew that the guy to your left and right had earned the right to be there.
In later years, a fourth week was once again added to RIP in order to familiarize students with basic Ranger marksmanship techniques on the flat range and further prepare them to meet the challenges they would face once they got to their battalions.
In 2010 the Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP) was replaced with the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP). RASP now extended the course duration to a total of eight weeks of training. While the beginning of RASP still mimics the older RIP program in order to weed out the weak and feeble, RASP includes much more skills training that Rangers new to the Regiment will need once they arrive.
This reflects not only the growing complexity of Ranger missions, but also the fact that Rangers do not have an extended training pipeline like SEALs or Special Forces. It was not uncommon for a soldier to graduate from RIP and be deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan a week later. RASP ensures that new Rangers have more of the base line skills they will need when they arrive in a combat zone.
The first phase of RASP is designed to push the individual Ranger student to the breaking point by inducing food and sleep deprivation alongside extremely taxing physical activities and events. RASP students are put through the meat grinder, including the traditional field trip out to Cole Range for some training and “physical correction.”
Phase two of RASP keeps up the pressure but now tests how well the individual can preform basic Ranger tasks while under stress. This phase includes not just flat range work and marksmanship, but also drivers training.
The Ranger Regiment always focused on the Big Four, Physical Training, Marksmanship, Battle Drills, and Medical Training. Today, Mobility has been added, and with good reason, to make it the Big Five. RASP students learn how to drive tactical vehicles during the day and at night while wearing night vision goggles. RASP students also get qualified in explosive breaching, combatives, and Ranger First Responder.
The key difference between the old RIP program and the improved RASP course is that RASP not only selects Rangers by assessing their physical and mental toughness but also saves the Regiment time and money by only selecting those who are trainable and capable of executing Ranger tasks.
In the past, a student who could suck up some pain and misery for three weeks would make it to Regiment only to be kicked out months later for failure to preform to the demanding training standards that are expected of him.
According to a recent RASP graduate and member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, “RASP1 crushed me, physically and mentally. Even after preparing for 8 months of non-stop training, it still got me. I have never been broke down so far both physically and mentally; but then I was re-built into a Ranger. Taught never to quit, never to leave a fallen comrade, and most importantly, that I volunteered for this and if I didn’t want it anymore, Regiment didn’t want me there.”
Additionally, those students who preform exceptionally well in RASP are sometimes being sent directly to Ranger School after graduation. All 75th Ranger Regiment members are expected to eventually attend Ranger School and must have a Ranger Tab in order to hold a leadership position. This is an effort to get more Ranger School qualified soldiers into the Regiment.
Will this one day become part of the 75th’s training pipeline and all Rangers will eventually be tabbed Corporals and above? Time will tell.
RASP2 and ROP
Just as RIP was the pre-requisite selection program for all enlisted men in order to become members of the Ranger Regiment, the Ranger Orientation Program (ROP) was required for all Sergeants and Officers who wished to join the ranks of the 75th. Even Rangers who leave the Regiment to work as training instructors elsewhere in the Army, or even to become Delta Force operators, would have to complete ROP in order to re-join the Regiment at a later date.
This is another necessary step to ensure that the highest standards were, and are, maintained in the Regiment.
ROP had many of the same tested events as RIP but also included certain team building events in order to evaluate leadership potential. At the end of ROP there was a selection board that each ROP student had to pass. Today, ROP has been replaced with RASP2.
As SOFREP has reported previously, there have been some issues with standards slipping in recent RASP classes but it seems that both current and former Rangers all agree: getting into the Regiment is a lot easier than staying there.
As challenging as RIP, and now RASP is, these selection programs are not as difficult as the training that members of the 75th conduct on a daily basis. These programs are not nearly as difficult as the hundreds of combat missions that Rangers will conduct after they graduate, sometimes rolling outside the wire on multiple raids during a single period of darkness.
Living up to the high standards of the Regiment, and living by the Ranger Creed, is another matter entirely. The Regiment is largely self correcting in that those who slip through the cracks during RASP will quickly be shown the door and send to another unit. RASP is a vast improvement upon the now obsolete RIP, but the ultimate selection happens day to day, mission to mission for every member of the Regiment.
Also check out an overview of the evolution of the Ranger Regiment in Part 1 of this series.