By Sgt. Casey Hustin (Multinational Battle Group - East (KFOR))July 26, 2018
CAMP NOTHING HILL, Kosovo -- Ranger-qualified Soldiers with 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, hosted 46 soldiers in the first International Ranger Assessment at Camp Nothing Hill, Kosovo, July 20 and 21, 2018.
Sgt. 1st Class David V. Martinez, a platoon sergeant with 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment's Bandit Troop, originally from Phoenix, was an instructor at the 4th Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning, Georgia. Several Soldiers with the 3-61 CAV had asked him what they should do to set themselves up for success at Ranger Course.
"Myself and a few other Ranger-qualified personnel in the unit came together and decided to host an assessment to see where these candidates are struggling and where they excelled to set them up for the best possible chance of graduating the United States Army Ranger (Course)," said Martinez. "Through the planning process we decided to open it up to all KFOR participating nations, and we've had a tremendous turnout."
Ranger assessment is primarily focused on physical and skilled individual tasks, which are mandatory within the first 96 hours of Ranger Course, also known as RAC (Ranger Assessment Course) week, which weeds out the physically and mentally unprepared.
Sgt. Michael D. Padrazo, a cavalry scout with Bandit Troop, attended the Ranger Assessment in hopes of attending the Ranger Course.
"It's one of the toughest schools in the Army, and being able to stand out and be one of the few to pass, I think, is saying a lot," said Padrazo.
Day 1 for the Ranger candidates began with a Ranger physical fitness test, passed when a candidate completes 49 pushups and 59 situps in two minutes, a five-mile run in 40 minutes or less, and six chinups.
"The primary focus for this assessment is to ensure our Soldiers are tactically competent in those tasks and physically and mentally strong enough to make it through the RAC week," said Martinez.
Day 1 continued with training instructions on Ranger tactical tasks, including radio assembly and frequency; M240 and M249 machine gun assembly, functions check and disassembly; Claymore mine assembly and detonation; and the use of the Defense Advanced GPS Receiver (DAGR). Afterward, they attended a class in infantry tactics from the Ranger Handbook. The Soldiers then conducted a two-mile buddy-team run in combat uniform with rifle. Day 1 concluded with a fieldcraft class which covered camouflage, signaling and marking, knot tying, and field packing.
"The hardest thing was the fatigue," said Padrazo. "You really have to ask yourself why, why am I doing this? Then you have to answer that question. Only you can answer that question."
Martinez said the participation by all Soldiers provided a greater opportunity to showcase the professionalism of the 3-61 CAV. It allowed them to infuse a higher level of interoperability throughout the KFOR mission. The assessment was conducted without disruption to the KFOR 24 mission of maintaining a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for the people of Kosovo.
"It was a good chance to integrate with another nation and see their take on things, their demeanor and attitudes; it's different, we're all people," said Padrazo. "A lot of them, having never dealt with this equipment before were able to hop on it, and showed an aptitude to outperform some of us."
Day 2 of the Ranger Assessment, the candidates conducted a 12-mile foot march carrying 45 pounds, then continued with testing on what they covered in Day 1's classes.
"You're tired, you haven't slept, barely ate, it's hot outside; you really have to dig deep and try to find that answer, why you're doing it," said Padrazo.
The tests included what they had covered on Day 1: radio assembly and frequency proficiency; the assembly, functions check and disassembly of an M240 and an M249, a Claymore mine assembly, functions check and firing simulation; as well as, the proficient use of a DAGR.
"Being around my peers, who are doing it, it motivated me to not be the one to fall out or quit," said Padrazo. "It made me push that extra 10 percent, just to stay with my group, to not let them down."
Padrazo suggests going to Ranger Course is a personal thing. While it may not make you better than anyone else, it may show you what you're capable of.
"That little piece of cloth that you wear on your left shoulder is an identifier to everyone who sees it," said Martinez, who has had his Ranger tab for nine years. "It shows that that individual has achieved a certain level of physical and tactical competence and that they are always willing throughout everything they do -- whether giving a presentation or training their Soldiers -- that they are always willing to go above and beyond the average Soldier. It really just comes down to the mindset to strive for excellence in everything they do when it comes to bettering themselves and their unit."
The assessment concluded with a ceremony, awarding the 12 Soldiers who passed the course.
"I challenge everyone, to include all my Soldiers, to attend the United States Army Ranger (Course)," said Martinez. "They would be surprised with what the human body and mind can do when it is set on an end state. Throw your hat in the ring and see where you stand. Be a team player; be fit, and always be an example for others to follow."