With the Army issuing a press release to announce a new Discovery Channel Special called Hell and Back, Special Ops Ranger, there was one curious factoid published with it that left many of us in the Ranger community taken aback. The documentary follows a class of prospective Rangers through RASP, the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program which is a pre-requisite for serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

The Ranger Regiment is known to maintain tough standards in regards to everything from physical appearance, to maintenance of equipment, and most importantly, performance in combat and job competency. These standards are enforced, violators are shown the door and Released For Standards but more critical than that, these non-performers are usually never allowed through the door to begin with, they are weeded out during the selection process which historically only has a 30% graduation rate.

This is why we were shocked when the Army press released stated, “114 Soldiers started Class 5-12; 91 Rangers graduated.” This is a shockingly high graduation rate of about 80% as opposed to the historical 30% that pass RASP and before that RIP. These graduation rates signify is massive drop in the physical and/or academic standards that RASP students are being held too in order to move on to a Ranger Battalion.

When questioned about this disturbing trend the Ranger Regiment’s Public Affairs Officer wrote, “The standards are the same. This happened to be a class full of studs and Soldiers determined not to fail on camera.”

This statement however does not pass the most cursory amount of scrutiny. An entire class of rare physical specimens is a laughable impossibility to anyone who has spent any amount of time in these selection programs. Perhaps some students were hesitant to quit in front of the camera but the presence of a camera does not magically grant RASP students with the ability to knock out an additional fifty pushups on the PT test or allow them to ruckmarch 12 miles any faster than usual.

There is also a robust Pre-RASP program that we did not have back when we went to RIP. This is a great addition to help prepare soldiers for selection but even the best preparatory program would increase the graduation rates by perhaps 5% or 10% on the very high end. Pre-RASP does not explain an alarming 80% graduation rate.

Ranger Selection

RASP is a critical phase in developing, screening, and vetting young Rangers just like SFAS and BUD/S is for Special Forces and SEALs.

Several years ago the Ranger Indoctrination Program was updated from three weeks to eight weeks when it turned into RASP, a much needed change considering the increased level of professionalization that has occurred in the Ranger Regiment during the War on Terror. Former and active duty Rangers applauded the new changes and standards were maintained with graduation rates as low as 24%.