There is always a story behind every book. What made the author put pen to paper? What was the inspiration? I think that as a reader, knowing those things will give you a lot of value added to your purchase as well as your time invested into reading that work. So this is me telling you the inside scoop behind the hottest new e-book to hit the digital shelves at Amazon…
Humidity in the Deep South is no joke, and I was already sweating through my uniform. We had been shuffled around the 1st Ranger Battalion area of the base all afternoon, trying to be in processed whilst performing various feats of physical exercise. We were nervous. Any arrogance we acquired from the proud feeling of graduating RIP was gone. We were repeatedly reminded that we were not shit, and most of us would not last long enough to even see our first deployment. I saw one of my buddies get picked up by the throat because one of the team leaders thought he was staring at him. Sergeant “T” was not the guy you wanted to be staring at. I can’t speak for everyone who was there that day, but I can tell you that I immediately questioned myself and the choice I had made coming here.
Was I really good enough?
It was a daunting task ahead of us indeed. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were absolutely serious that many of us would not last. I still don’t know why they let me stick around as long as they did. But among us that day were some future bona fide heroes. One from our class, SSG Kevin Pape, would eventually make the ultimate sacrifice many years later as a squad leader leading his men through intense combat in Afghanistan. One thing we all had in common that first day in battalion was that none of us knew anything about what would be required of us.
That day we in-processed was a Friday, and before I was released for the weekend I was given a little green hard-cover notebook that contained page upon page of hand-scrawled notes on “Ranger Knowledge.” I was given the advice that it would behoove me to know that book cover to cover by Monday morning. It was a daunting task indeed, and I questioned the feasibility of learning and memorizing so much in one weekend. I did my best though, and knowing Ranger Knowledge would turn out to be one of my strong suits. I did well that following Monday morning, I did well through the hours of quizzing on my first deployment, and I did well on both the mock board and actual board for promotion to Sergeant.
Through all that time though, I always wondered the following questions:
- Why is there no standard packet?
- Why does every squad have different information?
- Why are we not able to study this information prior to arrival at Batt.?
Fast forward a few years, and I had completed my fifth deployment and volunteered to go out on recruiting duty. My wife needed a break, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready for a change of pace myself. It didn’t take long to see how much life as a Ranger had impacted me, and how much the leaders in charge of me had forever changed my life. It was with that in mind that I wanted to give back to the organization any way I could, and as a recruiter I figured that the very least I could do was send my buddies some squared away new Rangers. So I started a side program to prepare future Rangers, and would eventually include 18x’s into that as well. In retrospect, I would say that program had three basic tenets: mentorship, physical fitness, and Ranger Knowledge. I figured that those three things combined with the right individuals would produce many successful graduates of RASP. I was right, and we had well over an 80% graduation rate.
It was during the life of this program that the Ranger Knowledge book was born. I started with the packet that I had put together to study for my Sergeant’s promotion board. “Paul” was the first wannabe who I trained, and I’ll be honest, he would have been successful with or without me. He rocked a sub 30-minute five-mile time, was smart, and was definitely motivated.
He would come in to my office every morning to get “smoked” for thirty minutes, and then we would go in to quizzing him on his Ranger Knowledge. At one point he was given the assignment to hand write the entire packet (I still have that today!). After he shipped out, I already had a new crop of guys ready to go. We added more information into the packet, I revised outdated info and started to really get into the weeds on the history portion. The wannabe Rangers were given writing assignments, essays, and played an important part during the revisions as well.
I was on recruiting duty for three years, and the packet was under constant scrutiny, and I received a lot of input from the guys still “in the know” to make sure it was current. Weapons were always changing, as well as what information was still relevant. I also bounced the history off of guys who were there. The section on Viet Nam was very vague until I got the guys who were their involved. When it was all said and done, we had a packet that would make any future Ranger or current Ranger jealous – and I knew it. I started to think to myself “Man, I could probably sell this thing, there are a lot of guys who could benefit from this compilation!”
What really propelled the packet from recruiting office study guide to actual publication was the birth of Blackside Concepts. I wrote “The Ranger,” which inspired me to get a company off of the ground, but the problem was that I had no money. It takes money to start a company, but I wasn’t very excited about taking outside investments in case it failed. That was when it clicked I should finally publish “Ranger Knowledge” and use that money to help with start-up costs. I started refining the packet and looking into all the nuances of the publishing world.
I was sitting on my couch one night, trying to sift through website after website of information, when I saw fellow Ranger-turned-author Jack Murphy online. I started a conversation with him asking about the feasibility of my idea, and how would I go about it? He not only said it was a good idea, but that we should get SOFREP involved as well. I was all about it. From there it got serious, and I spent many hours revising, editing, and fact checking. I wanted to spice it up a little, so we also had a variety of other Rangers submit personal anecdotes about their experiences to put in with the rather dry line up of straight information. By the end of it, we had a great product.
I’ll address one final question you may be wondering about. My name is Marty, but the author is Erik Larsen. What’s up with that? I used a pen name. At the time, I was still active duty representing the U.S. Army as a recruiter, and I was concerned about a potential conflict of interest both for the book and running my company as well. I didn’t want the Army telling me what I could or couldn’t do when it came to this project. So, I decided to use a name that reflected my Norwegian heritage until I separated from the Army – just in case. Now that I am out, I have left Erik Larsen by the way side.
It’s now about nine months after Jack and I first discussed this book, and it is up for sale on Amazon. I can hardly believe it. This work is good for so many people, and not just the Ranger wannabe either. At just under four dollars, you are getting damn near the entire Ranger encyclopedia, and I guarantee you cannot find this anywhere else on the Internet. If you are an aspiring Ranger, you would be ignorant not to get this and memorize it. Also, you ought to be following Coach Leo over at TF Black. He is programming workouts for guys who want to make it into a SOF unit, and they are damn good. So there you have it, all the knowledge to learn in my book and the physical side is taken care of by Coach Leo! If you don’t make it, then you are doing something else wrong!
(Featured Image Courtesy: FortBenningPhotos.com)