By Courtesy, Pennsylvania National GuardJanuary 15, 2020
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania National Guard Soldier made history in December when she became one of the first two enlisted National Guard female Soldiers and the first female Soldier from the Pennsylvania National Guard to graduate from the Army's vaunted Ranger School.
But, Sgt. Danielle Farber said she wouldn't have made it through the grueling 61-day school if it weren't for the training she received at Fort Indiantown Gap beforehand.
"The number-one factor of me getting through Ranger School was the training we went through here and the support we had," she said. "I wouldn't have known what to expect, I wouldn't have known how to prepare, and I wouldn't have proven to myself that I could get through a miserable situation like that."
Farber, 30, graduated from Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga., on Dec. 13. She and Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley of the South Carolina National Guard, who graduated in the same class, were the first two enlisted National Guard female Soldiers to graduate from the School.
Since the school was opened to females in 2015, 42 women have earned the coveted Ranger tab.
Although proud to now wear the tab, Farber did not hold back when asked to describe the school.
"It sucks," she said. "It's the hardest course I've done by far. I knew physically I was as prepared as I possibly could be going into it, and I knew mentally I could get through it, but I didn't know how the two would combine and what it would be like."
Farber said she contemplated quitting more than once.
"You're cold, you're wet, everything's frozen, and you're tired -- you only had about 20 minutes of sleep -- and then you get up and you have to do everything in the misery," she said. "I was ready to be done because it was all of the things I hate, combined. All your squad-mates and the guys in your platoon, they get you through it. You 100 percent don't get through Ranger School on your own."
Farber also credits the training she received as part of the Pennsylvania National Guard's Ranger/Sapper Assessment Program, which helps prepare Soldiers for Ranger and Sapper schools.
"They prepare you both physically and mentally," she said. "They really challenge you mentally. They put your mental endurance to the test at the assessment program."
First Sgt. Troy Conrad, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the RSAP, said the program selects applicants from across the state and trains them for several months before they leave for one of the schools.
The soldiers receive a variety of training, from intense physical fitness training to tasks they will see at one of the schools, such as land navigation, a 12-mile ruck march and a water-survival test, Conrad said.
"We want to make sure our students are in line with meeting all those standards before we send them," he said.
One of the main qualities Conrad said he looks for in Soldiers to take part in the assessment program is willingness to train and learn.
"You can take somebody that's maybe a little bit sub-par physically or doesn't quite have the knowledge base to succeed in that type of environment, and you can build them out," he said. "So that willingness to learn, that willingness to get in the physical condition that they need to be in to attend the school, we're looking for that drive."
Conrad said only about 48% of students who start Ranger School end up graduating. Meanwhile, he said, in the three years Pennsylvania's RSAP has been around, about 75% of the students it sends to Ranger School graduate.
Farber, who works full-time as a medical instructor at the Gap's 166th Regiment Regional Training Institute, was selected for the RSAP in 2018 and spent nearly a year preparing for Ranger School.
She said the main reason she wanted to attend the school was to improve her leadership skills.
"Also because a lot of people said I couldn't do it, so I wanted to prove them wrong," she said.
Her class started with six females and graduated with four. Being one of six women in a class that started with about 400 Soldiers wasn't as weird as she thought it was going to be.
"I'm kind of used to being the only female when it comes to stuff like this," she said.
Farber said she knew that she would be the first female Soldier from the Pennsylvania National Guard to graduate from the school, but she didn't know she would be one of the first two enlisted females from the National Guard to graduate.
Although she didn't necessarily seek to be in the spotlight, Farber said she hopes she can serve as an inspiration for other women and young girls.
"I had a few students from the course I teach reach out to me, and they told me how they showed their daughter pictures of it and told their daughters they can do anything," she said. "That's probably one of the coolest things that have come out of it."
Farber is a native of Kennett Square, Pa., and now resides in Hummelstown, Pa. She has a bachelor's degree in leisure and sports studies from Kutztown University.