Calling all Soldiers: Instructors, junior NCOs in demand at Ranger Training Brigade
August 26, 2010
- Army "critically short" on Ranger-qualified staff sergeants
- Male Soldiers in ranks specialist and above eligible for Ranger School
- RTB leaders aim to boost numbers in next three to five years
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- The Ranger Training Brigade is looking for a growth spurt in the ranks.
Facing critical shortages across the Army, the unit has cranked up a recruiting campaign to lure more candidates to Ranger School, especially at the junior NCO level.
Lt. Col. Kyle Feger, the RTB's deputy commander, said the brigade needs more staff sergeants to serve as Ranger instructors, so it's seeking out junior NCOs to volunteer for Ranger School in an effort to create better-trained combat leaders and fill Army-wide vacancies.
"As evidenced across our entire force, the RTB and U.S. Army as a whole is critically short on Ranger-qualified staff sergeants in particular," he said. "The RTB is currently filling just over half of its authorized numbers of Ranger-qualified staff sergeants and having to rely more heavily on sergeants first class for Ranger instructors ... And only Ranger-qualified NCOs can serve as Ranger instructors."
Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Smith, the RTB's command sergeant major, said the Army has only 850 Infantry staff sergeants with Ranger tabs - and about 2,100 slots available. Excluding the RTB and 75th Ranger Regiment, that gap is even more pronounced, he said.
"I want to recruit the specialists and sergeants," he said. "That's who we're targeting, because most commands are reluctant to let their staff sergeants and sergeants first class go off to Ranger School. They're just too valuable."
"If we can recruit some specialists and sergeants, we'll really see a boost in numbers in three to five years."
Ranger School, however, certainly isn't easy, and it's not for everyone, RTB leaders said. But the rewards are high and offer Soldiers a great career progression tool, both inside and outside the Army.
"There are no words to describe the pride of being a Ranger," Smith said. "And that Ranger tab will open a lot of doors for you as a Soldier and a leader, not only in the Army but when you get out. It says something about your character, leadership ability and mental toughness. Anyone who knows anything about Ranger School, and sees that tab on your shoulder, knows you're a cut above. And they want you on their team."
Ranger candidates must be highly motivated, extremely physically fit and possess a solid baseline knowledge of small-unit tactics, Feger said. They must pass a medical screening to ensure they don't have any defects that might contribute to complications during the strenuous course.
He said "high-risk training" takes place nearly every day within the RTB, including Airborne, air assault, mountain and waterborne operations. Rangers get only three to five hours of sleep at training, depending on their performance, and eat just two MREs a day, about 2,000 to 3,000 calories. They also must deal with extreme weather conditions.
"The cumulative effects of the physical demands, coupled with the added stressors of food and sleep deprivation, create the largest hurdle for Ranger students," he said.
The first three days are easily the most difficult, RTB leaders said. It consists of physically demanding events - including a five-mile run, land-navigation tasks and 15.5-mile foot march - strung together over about 72 hours that challenge the candidates before they ever start the patrolling-techniques phase.
"It's a hard three days because it's nonstop," Smith said. "Most people do not come prepared for that ... (But) if you pass the first three days, your chance of graduating is about 75 percent."
Feger called Ranger School the "single-most important leadership course" in the Army, if not the entire Department of Defense. He said it gives Soldiers the confidence and tools to take charge of their units and lead them through any situation.
"Becoming a Ranger-qualified leader in our Army today is an awesome achievement," he said. "Because it is such a small population of personnel across the Army and throughout our history, just becoming a Ranger has a huge meaning to those men who have volunteered and made the grade. But it's not about what it does for the individual."
"More importantly, it is about what that individual is now expected to live up to, every day, in leading their men in accordance with the principles of the Ranger creed - leading the way by setting the standard for others to follow."
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 by policy. 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 his chain of command. 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 Ranger course start date and signed by a physician stating the applicant is medically qualified to attend Ranger training.
HOW DO YOU MAKE THE CUT'
Ranger training lasts 61 days, and the first three are the toughest. Historically, about 60 percent of the overall course drops occur in Week 1 during the Ranger Assessment Phase, or RAP. 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.
Those who make it past that crucible still must demonstrate technical and tactical competence on graded patrols such as reconnaissance and ambush. Each phase includes peer evaluations in which candidates rate each other from first to last based on their ability to work as a team member and pull their weight.
Patrol and peer evaluations continue into the mountain phase at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Ga., where platoon operations are conducted over extremely rugged mountainous terrain. Then, it's on to Camp Rudder, Fla., where the Ranger hopefuls continue through waterborne operations in the coastal swamps.
Soldiers interested in becoming a Ranger instructor should contact the RTB's personnel office.
(Source: Ranger Training Brigade)