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Ranger School seeks to fortify NCO numbers

The number of Ranger School instructors has grown from a “critical” deficit of 60 percent in September to 80 percent, with the number expected to grow in the next few months, officials at the Ranger Training Brigade reported.

However, the number of Combat Arms NCOs attending the school has remained stagnant, said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Smith, the brigade’s senior enlisted leader.

“I don’t think the message is getting out there,” he said.

“I’ve been accused more than once of being extremely passionate about this I feel the Army is going to suffer as a whole if we don’t do something soon,” he said. “General Abrams put all this together from a vision he had in the ’70s. We can’t stop that now just because we went to war for nine years. For more reasons than not, we need to step it up.”

In January of 1974, Army chief of staff Gen. Creighton Abrams directed the formation of the first Ranger battalions.

According to his charter, he felt a tough, disciplined and elite Ranger unit would set a standard for the rest of the Army and that, as Rangers “graduated” from Ranger units to regular Army units, their influence would improve the entire Army.

Smith said he feels the result of low NCO attendance rates could be “catastrophic to the Army’s future because Ranger School builds resiliency in Soldiers, which in turn makes the unit he serves in better.”

“We are losing the discipline of rehearsals, Pre-Combat Checks and Pre-Combat Inspections — common core NCO tasks the school teaches and reinforces — because we don’t have the guys coming to the course,” he said.

Of the 147 Rangers who graduated Friday, Smith said five were staff sergeants. Three were sergeants first class.

That trend is further compounded by another alarming trend — the number of Ranger-qualified NCOs leaving the Army, he said.

According to statistics provided by the Human Resources Command, an estimated 240 staff sergeants will leave the Army in the next year. Smith said the school had 244 staff sergeants graduate last year.

“With that deficit, it would take me ten years to make up what we’ve lost,” he said.

Many units are only filling a small portion of their authorized Ranger slots.

The RTB launched a campaign last fall to encourage more Combat Arms units to send Soldiers to Ranger School.

The school is also working in cooperation with the Maneuver Center NCO Academy to recruit Advanced Leader Course and Senior Leader Course students to attend Ranger School.

Each class is briefed and students are given the opportunity to volunteer for the course. Those who do are put into a special physical fitness training program and given pre-Ranger type instruction in addition to their ALC or SLC curriculum. Smith is also communicating with sergeants major across the Army to get slots filled.

Some units, such as the 75th Ranger Regiment adhere to a “grow your own” plan, he said, which is why they are successful in maintaining a large number of Rangers. The 75th Ranger Regiment has the highest Ranger strength in the Army.

“It’s a mandatory progression for those guys. They’re sending privates first class, specialists and sergeants to school and I’m trying to get that out to the rest of the Army. The more (students) you send, the more (Rangers) you will get.”Smith cautioned that sending a student for training does not guarantee his success.

“It’s a hard school; it’s supposed to be. I’m not going to lower my standards to get more numbers,” he said.Historically, the Ranger School’s attrition rate has hovered at 50 percent. Last year, it was 46 percent. Sixty percent of those who fail wash out in the first four days.


Nearly 50 percent of all students who start Ranger School fail to graduate. Historically, about 60 percent of the overall course drops occur in Week 1 during the Ranger Assessment Phase, or RAP.

RAP Week includes several key events: The Ranger Physical Fitness Test, Combat Water Survival Assessment, Day and Night Combined Land Navigation and a 15.5-mile foot march. The fitness test accounts for approximately 25 percent of all RAP Week failures. Most of the RPFT failures occur during the push-up event.

Bottom line: RAP Week failure is a direct result of students who are physically unprepared to achieve the minimum standards.


Standard: The RPFT is administered as depicted in Field Manual 3-22.20. The event consists of the push-up, sit-up, five-mile run and chin-ups. Regardless of age, the student will be tested in the 17 to 21-year-old age bracket, and must score a minimum 70 points per event.

Goal: To score at least 90 points in each event and be able to complete 12 chin-ups prior to attending Ranger School.


Standard: Five mile run in 40 minutes or less.

Prospective students must train themselves to conduct a thorough warm-up and calisthenics session prior to long training runs in order to prepare for the cumulative effect that results from the RPFT, CWSA, and the stress of Day 1 Ranger School.

Goal: To run five miles at a 7:30 pace per mile (total time of 37:30).


Standard: Students must complete a minimum of 6 chin-ups to pass and will not be allowed to swing or otherwise use their legs to assist movement.

Goal: Be able to complete 12 chin-ups.


Standard: The CWSA consists of three stations: The log walk rope drop, suspension traverse and 15-meter swim. Any swim stroke is authorized except the backstroke.

Goal: All swim events must be accomplished without showing fear.


Standard: Must find four of five points in four hours during examination in the Ranger course.

The Ranger School land navigation test is a combined night-into-day test approximately 10 kilometers in length. The start time will be adjusted to ensure the Ranger Student has one to one and a half hours of limited visibility and two and a half hours of daylight.

Most of the land navigation failures do not make the time standard.

Goal: The only way to get faster is to practice.


Standard: Conduct a 15.5-mile foot march in 6 hours or less — 18-20 minute pace.

The 15.5 Mile Foot March is conducted with all combat equipment issued to the student. Incorporate at least one foot march per week in the uniform prescribed while progressing to a minimum of 13 miles at an 18-20 minute pace.

Soldiers who train for the foot march have fewer injuries and infections from blisters than those Soldiers who failed to incorporate foot marching into their preparation program. Focus on toughening feet as well as strengthening back and abdominal muscles to mitigate injuries and increase potential for success.

Goal: Train for the maximum pace standard — not the minimum.

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Source: Ranger Training Brigade