FORT BENNING, Ga. - SGT Joshua Fish said tales from a former platoon sergeant he served with in Germany lured him into the 75th Ranger Regiment. SPC Brendan Smith was a college graduate looking to escape his desk job.

They now have the distinction of being the first Soldiers to vault directly out of the unit's Ranger Assessment and Selection Program and graduate from Ranger School without first joining a battalion.

"I was in the 'Big Army' before, and figured if you're going to go to war with someone, I'll go to war with the best," said Fish, 22, of Curwensville, Pa. "It was pretty challenging from start to finish, mainly the length of it. But I definitely got good training out of it. You're around the cadre all the time, so you see what right looks like (and) strive to look like them."

Smith said he attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst and became a recruiter for an engineering firm. But the 24-year-old native of Springfield, Vt., was seeking a tougher challenge outside his comfort zone.

"In the back of my mind, I always wanted to be a Ranger. I wasn't getting any younger, so now's the time to do it," he said. "I wanted to be a cut above, I wanted to be part of a more elite group."

Smith said he had some "very challenging days" along the way. There were 318 to be exact, from the moment he reported at the 30th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception) until Ranger School graduation Aug. 27.

"The rewards outweigh the hard days, by far," he said.

Fish said he believes changes this year in the regiment's assessment procedures will pay long-term dividends.

"The selection process is very good, really in-depth," he said. "They put you in challenging situations to see how you react, and basically base it off that. You're constantly in a leadership position there ... so you're constantly being evaluated on your leadership skills, and just your personal motivation also, whether you want to be there or not."

Smith is headed to the regiment's 1st Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., while Fish joins 3rd Battalion at Fort Benning.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16