By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (Benning)July 23, 2018
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- During a July 18 ceremony at Marshall Auditorium at McGinnis-Wickam Hall at Fort Benning, Georgia, the U.S. Army inducted nine Rangers and one French civilian into the Ranger Hall of Fame.
The ten inductees were:
- Command Sgt. Maj. Martin R. Barreras,
- Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Gallagher,
- Maj. Thomas Greer,
- Retired Master Sgt. Clifford Manning,
- Retired Col. John J. Ellis,
- Retired Maj. Michael R. Wagers,
- Retired Col. Ronald R. Leonard,
- Capt. Fred O. Jackson Jr.,
- Retired Lt. Col. David Prybyla and
- Jean-Marc Lefranc.
Col. Douglas G. Vincent, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade and member of the selection committee, gave remarks at the beginning of the ceremony, saying that the previous 25 years of Hall of Fame inductees "are some of the most distinguished, heroic and selfless Soldiers who ever served."
"The 2018 inductees continue this proud tradition and certainly live up to the high expectations set by their predecessors," said Vincent. "The Ranger legend is in part built on the foundation crafted from their deeds."
Ranger associations as part of the nominating committee and major Army commands may submit three candidates a year. To be eligible, nominees must be deceased or have been separated or retired from active duty for at least three years when nominated. They must have served in a Ranger unit in combat or be a successful graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger School.
The Rangers inducted in 2018 served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Panama, Vietnam and Korea.
Retired Master Sgt. Russell Bell accepted the honor on behalf of his friend Command Sgt. Maj. Martin R. "Gunny" Barreras, who died from wounds sustained in combat in Afghanistan May 13, 2014.
"Gunny is the best man that I know," said Bell. "Induction into the Ranger Hall of Fame is awarded in recognition of extraordinary contributions to a Ranger unit. Gunny certainly checked that block."
Bell described Barreras as a Ranger dedicated to his Soldiers and as a man dedicated to his Family.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger accepted the honor of induction on behalf of Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Gallagher, who began his career in 1981 as an infantryman at Fort Benning, Georgia, who parachuted with A Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, into Panama as part of Operation Just Cause in 1989, who served in Mogadishu, Somalia, and who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Gallagher retired in 2013, made plans to offer kayaking trips to wounded Warriors and military Families, but he passed away a year after his retirement from natural causes.
"Command Sergeant Major Robert Gallagher lived the Ranger Creed every day of his life," said Mellinger.
Maj. Thomas Greer served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, fifteen years of which he served in special operations units. He was also an instructor at the U.S. Army Ranger School, and was eight years in the 75th Ranger Regiment. He served in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq during his career.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Greer, Maj. Thomas Greer's brother, accepted the honor on Thomas Greer's behalf, who died in 2016 from pancreatic cancer.
"He loved everybody he served with," Steve Greer said of his brother.
Retired Master Sgt. Clifford Manning, a lifetime member of Company G Ranger 75th Infantry and longstanding member of the 75th Ranger Regiment Association was also inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame. He served as a first sergeant of the 1st Ranger Company at the Ranger Training School Brigade at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Following a military career that included combat tours in both Korea and Vietnam, Manning volunteered his time taking Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from the Georgia Institute of Technology on weekend trips to Fort Benning for training.
"I'm proud to stand here today and be honored and be inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame," said Manning. "I can't put into words how proud I am to serve with these outstanding rangers."
Manning, in addition to thanking the board and his family, gave praise to the rangers he served with during Vietnam.
"As first sergeant of Company 2 Rangers, 75th Regiment, in Vietnam, year 1969 and 1970, I served with the best and the most outstanding group of Rangers, officers and enlisted men, the best of the best," said Manning. "That group of men was the greatest group of men that I have ever had the privilege of serving with here in my entire 20-year career in the United States Army. They were dedicated, loyal, and you couldn't ask for anyone who was as dedicated and as loyal that group of Rangers."
Retired Col. John J. Ellis served in the military for 30 years, which included command of two Ranger companies and command of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, of which he was the longest serving commander.
Ellis commended the Rangers he served with following Vietnam.
"I accept this not because of me, but because of them," said Ellis. "They are the true heroes that made the Army today what it is. And what I've seen of the Rangers today, they are carrying on that same standard."
Retired Maj. Michael R. Wagers received the honor of induction following Ellis. Wagers was a rifle platoon leader during Vietnam at 19 years old. He earned his Ranger tab in 1971 and completed Pathfinder School, Jumpmaster School and more. He became the commander of the Ranger Indoctrination Detachment, 75th Ranger Regiment. And he stays active within the Ranger community by mentoring and life-coaching young Rangers and veterans.
Wagers talked about learning to become a Ranger, highlighting the mentoring relationship he shared with his first company commander, and also commending the many other mentors and peers he had throughout his career.
"I was born of a hundred fathers, some of them still alive, some of them still here," said Wagers. "And I had a hundred brothers, many of them right in front of me today, people that I served with, people that I bled with."
Retired Col. Ronald R. Leonard initially joined the U.S. Air Force in 1963, but transferred to the Army and to the Infantry and the Basic Officer's Course and Airborne training. Upon his receipt of orders to Vietnam in 1966, he attended Ranger School en route. As a company commander in Vietnam in 1967, he and his company distinguished themselves at the Battle of Dak To. He served as a committee chief and company commander and later S3 at the Florida Ranger Camp, and he returned to Vietnam in 1971, serving as a district senior adviser during the 1972 spring offensive. After Vietnam, he led patrols into the demilitarized zone to prove or refute rumors of North Korean operations.
Leonard talked about the mission of the Rangers, and their lethality.
"The Rangers are selected and trained to accept the most complex and difficult missions and tasks that can confront combat arms organizations," said Leonard. "The enemy knows how we operate, but they haven't quite figured it out yet that it's a losing game for them. We take losses, yes, but we inflict so much loss on the enemy that they can't afford to keep it up."
Accepting on behalf of Capt. Fred O. Jackson Jr. was his grandson Evan Phil Eliot. Jackson gave his life during his second tour of combat in Vietnam. He provided aerial gun support from a Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter to a small reconnaissance unit who were in heavy contact with a superior sized enemy force. His aircraft was damaged, but he stayed as long as possible to expend all his ammunition in aid of the unit, flew back to the airfield to exchange the aircraft and returned to provide more support. Heavy machine gun fire damaged the Cobra, and the aircraft caught fire and exploded, killing Jackson.
Eliot never met his grandfather. His knowledge came from the stories of his Family.
"He loved to fly; he loved his job," said Eliot. "He played football, was a loving husband and a good father. He stood up for people who were bullied. He had a strong sense of justice. Without compromising he chose to make the world around him a better place."
The final ranger to be honored during the ceremony was retired Lt. Col. David Prybyla. In Vietnam, he served as a platoon leader, executive officer and company commander. He completed Ranger training as an honor graduate and then was assigned to the Ranger Department. After being evacuated from theater after sustaining wounds during his second tour of duty in Vietnam and after a year of hospitalization and rehabilitation, he returned to duty for another 12 years.
"This is an extremely humbling event," said Prybyla. "For those of us that have served in the capacity of a ranger, this is an extremely big deal."
The final honoree was Jean-Marc Lefranc, a member of the National Assembly of France from 2002 to 2012. He was recognized for establishing a Ranger Museum and a Ranger Memorial in Grandcamp-Maisy in Normandy of northwestern France. He also propounded the restoration and preservation of Pointe du Hoc, a key point during the D-Day assault June 6, 1944, during World War II.
"The Normans know how high was the price you paid for freedom, and we never paid our debt for you," said Lefranc. "We thank you, from the deepest of our heart, for what the American people - the American Soldier - gave to us, we the Normans, to restore peace, to restore democracy."
The event concluded with a recitation of the Ranger Creed and the playing of the Army Song.