FORT SILL, Okla. -- A piece of material barely more than two inches wide is what 29 second lieutenants fought for July 21 in Rucker Park.

"This is what it's all about. They're doing this all for this tab right here," said Capt. Alain Monroy, Pre-Ranger Course instructor, as he pointed to his left shoulder. He shook his head as if it were joke, but he understands the importance of wearing the Ranger tab.

The second lieutenants understand it too, but to be able to wear one they must endure grueling PT and extra training on top of their Field Artillery Basic Officer Leaders Course workload here. And that's the easy part.

If they make it to the end and earn the opportunity to go to the U.S. Army Ranger School in Fort Benning, Ga. they still have two months of intense training to survive.

"The ultimate goal is to earn a slot in Ranger School and Ranger School develops combat leaders. That's what I really joined the Army to do," said 2nd Lt. Frank Buckley.

Day 1 for lieutenants began at 5:30 in the morning and didn't end until around 7:30 a.m.

The Soldiers loaded up their 35 pound-ruck sacks and ran from the Patriot Club to Rucker Park. There, they rotated through different stations where they did buddy-carries up a hill, dragged each other on medical sleds, and did maneuver exercises until they were drenched in sweat.

They learned their first lesson in exhaustion and having to perform a mental task when they had to recite the Ranger Creed perfectly. Each time they made a mistake, they had to exercise.

"We always finish out with the Ranger Creed, which we hold dear, because it's dedicated to all the Rangers that have fallen in combat. That's really what they need to think about when they're in the program is why they're doing it. We're not just here playing around," said Monroy.

Monroy is one of several Ranger qualified Soldiers in the Captains Career Course who volunteers time and effort to train the next generation of Rangers.

By Day 2, 26 out of the 29 lieutenants showed up. They ran five milies, did 200 pushups, 200 situps and 50 chinups - finishing up, of course with the Ranger Creed. By Day 3 two more Soldiers dropped out of the program.

"I want to make sure they understand this is an investment in time and energy, and if they want to set themselves apart and get that extra training, they're going to have to pay for it," said Capt. James Potter, formerly assigned to the Ranger Regiment and Pre-Ranger Course officer in charge.

Potter and the other instructors said the training is meant to help them through the toughest parts of their military careers.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever done, including combat. And that's the thing - you want to make it so hard that when they get to combat they say, 'Ah, this is nothing,'" said Monroy.

Two women are currently in the course, not because they are allowed to go to Ranger School, but because they believe in the training.

"Honestly, I think for someone who has the opportunity, even to do this, it's almost irresponsible not to take it. You're putting your Soldiers lives in danger if you are not the best leader you can be," said 2nd Lt. Ellie Loran. "I think to be the best Soldier-leader you have to know infantry tactics."

Potter said he and the other instructors pick up a new group of Soldiers when they are one month into FA BOLC. Then they continue training for the rest of their time in the course.

"It's tough to maintain the high academic standards of BOLC and then on top of that add the extra rigor of getting up early in the morning, and spending nights and weekends. If they start struggling academically with the course load I have to cut them from the program. Passing BOLC is their first priority," said Potter.

The Soldiers spend a total of 67 days working on meeting Ranger standards.

"The modern Ranger School was built to train lieutenants to go to Vietnam. As artillery we have to do this to prepare them for that because they don't have that initial leadership course that the infantry lieutenants have to prepare them for Infantry School," said Monroy.

Before they leave, Potter said they must pass a 5-mile run in under 40 minutes; be able to do 57 strict-form pushups; 67 situps, 6 chinups; do a 15-mile ruckmarch with a 55-pound pack in under 3 hours and 45 min; pass a combat water survival test; navigate an obstacle course and do land navigation.

"I'd say 75 percent of them can't meet those standards right up front. We have to train them to meet those standards by the end, and if they can't make them they can't go," said Potter.

Since January 2013, the Fort Sill Pre-Ranger Course has sent 115 students to Ranger School with a 47 percent pass rate.

Editors note: A followup article will look at Soldiers at the end of their FA BOLC before they go to Ranger School.