This is a practical article. I am not discussing the essence of being a Ranger, what type of soul or spirit it takes to pass RASP, or what the cadre are looking for in a potential candidate. This is an outline of the qualifications to become a U.S. Army Ranger, assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment. Though articles like this have been written in the past, time passes and people forget. That might not seem like a big deal, but it can be if there is confusion and someone is getting “called out,” or accused of stolen valor.
The Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP) is the selection process to become a Ranger. Some, simply refer to it as “selection,” simply because it’s easier for others to digest and understand than the ambiguous “RASP.” It’s a rough eight weeks that follow Basic Training and Airborne School. The first half of RASP is focused solely on seeing just how tough the candidates are; it does not train many skills, it does not focus on developing you as an intelligent, tactically proficient Ranger — it breaks the group down and sees who’s still standing. The older version of RASP, known as the Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP), was just this. This culminates in “Cole Range,” a few hellish days in the Georgia woods with RASP cadre.
RASP added phase two — the second four weeks — as a way to train Rangers, so when they reached their platoons they weren’t completely caught off guard with everything they saw there. While they cannot learn platoon-specific tasks like room clearing or reaction to contact, they learn breaching techniques, driving, fast roping, and they reach new levels in the fundamentals of marksmanship.
RASP 2 is a separate course for senior NCOs, Officers, and Warrant Officers that I will not get into here. Suffice to say, it is also a grueling selection process not meant for the faint of heart.
Upon graduation from RASP, you are endowed with a “scroll” and you are a Ranger. Period. If you didn’t deploy, if you were kicked out, if you were dishonorably discharged, and if you didn’t get your Ranger Tab, you are still a Ranger because at one point you were endowed with the responsibility of being one, practically speaking. You were trained as one and held to that standard every day as a part of your job, beyond some school that inevitably ends. The military sees you as one and your scrolled brethren see you like one, no matter how much they do or don’t like you.
There is some controversy regarding the Ranger Tab which you earn upon completion of Ranger School. Ranger School, despite the name, is not directly affiliated with the Regiment. While it may not be a perfect metaphor, think of it as going and getting your law degree and working at a law firm. You can work at the law firm (read: Ranger Regiment) without going to law school. There are plenty of jobs that need to be done that don’t require a law degree. Imagine a law firm that requires you to start this way, without going to a law school to begin. Then, when they think you’re ready, they send you to law school. It’s hard, it’s prestigious, but then you just come back to your law firm and continue to climb up the ladder. If someone went to law school, then went back to working at a gas station, it’s certainly an accomplishment, but they are not a working lawyer — they have the degree.
Again, not a perfect metaphor, but you get the idea. The lifestyle of a Ranger-qualified soldier and a Ranger from the 75th Ranger Regiment is so wildly different, that many feel it is important to distinguish between the two. The standard and accepted description for someone passing Ranger School is “Ranger-qualified.”
Just like a law school, if you’re qualified, you can attend Ranger School. Candidates go for different reasons, but in order to progress in their careers, Rangers have to go — but if they don’t, they are still Rangers. They still worked at the law firm, so to speak.
Want to be a Ranger? Pass RASP and get assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment. That’s it. End of story. Any stains on your record afterward, any terrible decisions you make or any extra accolades you gain — none of it changes that.
Book suggestions on being a Ranger:
Sua Sponte: The Forging of a Modern American Ranger
The Reaper: Autobiography of One of the Deadliest Special Ops Snipers
The Ranger Way: Living the Code On and Off the Battlefield
This article was originally published in January 2018. It has been edited for republication.