Outside the comfort zone
December 6, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas -- 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment recently put several of its Soldiers through 48 hours of rigorous assessment to see if they have what it takes to become U.S. Army Rangers.
The squadron sponsored a Ranger School Assessment Program to ensure their candidates were properly prepared for the physical and mental challenges the school presents.
"The RSAP is designed to identify Soldiers we are confident will succeed in school," said Capt. Nick Eslinger, assistant squadron operations officer and native of Oakley, Calif. "They will need to possess a significant level of physical fitness, motivation, heart and attention to detail."
The Soldiers began with the Ranger Physical Fitness Test, a standardized test which, unlike the Army PFT, bears a single performance requirement regardless of the Soldier's age.
Immediately following, the candidates executed a complete layout of all the necessary gear to complete the assessment. Every stage of the program is executed quickly and with great emphasis on detail. Failure to follow instruction often results in additional "physical training," aimed at sharpening the candidate's focus on tasks.
"We try to take the Soldier out of his comfort zone and force him to perform in a high stress environment," said Staff Sgt. Hector Caudel, a platoon sergeant with Troop C, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, originally from Santa Ana, Calif. "The ones who have the heart and desire to be a Ranger will distinguish themselves from the others."
As the first day wore on, instructors pushed tired Soldiers through the Combat Water Survival Test that included a 15-meter swim in uniform and required them to free themselves from their gear while submerged. Candidates then moved on to basic skill exercises that included emplacing claymore mines, drawing up machine-gun range cards, and weapons assembly drills.
Soldiers finished the first evening with a timed, three-mile buddy run and a trip to the obstacle course on Veterans Field.
"This was really a personal challenge to see if I can handle the pressure," said Private Justin Terek, an infantryman assigned to Troop B, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, from Fountain City, Wis. "It's been pretty rough. We get intense physical training between and during events."
Day two saw the candidates conduct a land navigation course on west Fort Hood in the chilly morning hours after minimal sleep and sparing rations. Afterward they moved on to more general training and then prepared for the 12-mile foot march that would signify the end of the assessment.
"The ones that make it will have a chance to greatly increase their tactical and technical knowledge and then bring that back to enhance the abilities of the squadron," said Eslinger. "Ultimately we want to keep filling school slots with Tiger Squadron Soldiers."
Throughout the assessment Soldiers were exhausted but remained motivated and pushed hard until they completed the last task.
As advice to anyone interested, Terek said he would recommend the RSAP, adding that the most important factor to making it through is not giving up.