Families and World War II Rangers gathered at Hurley Hill overlooking Victory Pond Oct. 22 for the graduation of Ranger Class 10-10 from the U.S. Army Ranger School.
The event kicked off with a Rangers In Action demonstration showcasing what Rangers are equipped to do upon graduating the 61-day course. Rangers detonated explosives, jumped from helicopters into the water, air assaulted into an area across the pond, rappelled down towers, raced down zip lines and fought in hand-to-hand combat.
The school is a 61-day combat leadership course focused on small-unit tactics. The course is divided into three phases: Benning, Mountain and Florida phases. The course emphasizes practical, realistic and strenuous fieldwork. Students experience fatigue and hunger and must demonstrate quick, sound decisions and calm, forceful leadership under stressful conditions, according to school officials.
Among the graduates are an Armor officer and a former International Sniper Competition champion.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Grant Royal, a 1st Marine Division scout sniper, was the enlisted honor graduate.
Royal, whose team claimed service class and overall victory at the 2009 sniper competition, said Ranger School was the toughest two-month course he’s attended in his seven-year career. Grant said he’s attended tougher courses for shorter periods of time and it takes endurance to get through Ranger School.
“It’s being able to last for two months when you’re only getting a little bit of sleep every night and a little bit of food each day but still exerting yourself 100 percent throughout,” he said.
Of the more than 300 students who began the course, only 160 made it to graduation day.
Historically, about 60 percent of the overall course drops occur in Week 1 during the Ranger Assessment Phase, or RAP, according to officials at the Ranger Training Brigade. Events include a physical fitness test on the first morning requiring 49 push-ups, 59 situps, six pull-ups and a five-mile run in less than 40 minutes. The first 72 hours also include the Combat Water Survival Assessment, three-mile “buddy run,” Malvesti Obstacle Course, night and day land navigation over several kilometers, and a 15.5-mile foot march from Camp Rogers to Camp Darby on post.
Capt. Mark Searles, of the Maneuver Captains Career Course, said making it through Ranger School was a personal test. “For me, the toughest part was lack of food I think the goal of the food deprivation is to test you and get you to lead and others to follow you when conditions are at their worst,” said Searles, who received the officer leadership award. “When guys are tired, hungry and fading off, you still have to lead them and get them to accomplish the mission. If you can do it here in these conditions, you can do it in combat.”
An added stressor at Ranger School is the weather. Rain or shine, hot or cold, the students are training.
“The one thing I will remember is the last day of our final field training exercise in the mountains. It was about 35 degrees out, raining, and we weren’t allowed to put on any wet weather or cold weather gear. It was miserable,” said 2nd Lt. Brandon Landes, who came straight from attending the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Knox, Ky. “We were supposed to be setting up a security patrol base at the top of this mountain. It didn’t go well because everybody was in the pits. That was definitely the low point of Ranger School.”
Landes was the officer honor graduate.
Landes, who is headed to 4th Infantry Division in Fort Carson, Colo., said he believes the experience was meant to teach the students to sustain themselves through tough times.
The youngest graduate, Spc. John Condon, 20, of the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis, Wash., said getting through the course takes heart.
In his two years of service, Condon already has two combat deployments under his belt but said “with my unit, everyone has a Ranger tab. If you don’t, then you’re not really qualified in your job. I said ‘if they can do it, why can’t I?’”
Soldiers interested in attending Ranger School should visit their website at https://www.benning.army.mil/rtb.
WHO’S ELIGIBLE FOR RANGER SCHOOL? Male Soldiers in ranks specialist and above. The combat exclusion clause remains in effect, so female Soldiers cannot attend. Personnel in the grade of E-3 not assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment or Ranger Training Brigade must submit a request for waiver through their chain of command and have served in a leadership position. While it’s not mandatory for Ranger School, about 80 percent of each class is Airborne-qualified.
Complete dental and health records, including original physical examination (SF 88, SF 93 and supporting documents) must be submitted, dated within 18 months of the Ranger course start date and signed by a physician stating the applicant is medically qualified to attend Ranger training.