Throughout the history of warfare specially trained units of fighters engaged in activity outside regular combat.  Initially, the role of the Special Forces units was to disrupt and sabotage and provide reconnaissance and intelligence for the “regular” combat units.  In the United States, the first modern Special Force unit came from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), during WWII.[2]  


Army Rangers Parachuting into Grenada; photo courtesy of the U.S. Army, Source: Wikimedia CommonsCredit: photo courtesy of the U.S. Army, Source; Wikimedia Commons

The United States military forces are highly trained, skilled and efficient in their duties.  Within each branch of the military, there are elite units known as Special Forces who have additional training and skills beyond the “regular” militia.  However, not all Special Operations Forces (SOF) are military based; some are part of the intelligence agencies.[1]  Many of the military units are part of the Department of Defense’s United States Special Operations Command (USSOC), but when in the Continental United States answer to the administration of their specific military branch. The Rangers are one of the Special Forces Units of the Army.  

History of The Rangers 

The first official modern-day Ranger battalion was formed in mid-1942 and consisted of 500 volunteers, but the Rangers have been in existence for much longer.  In 1676 the first Ranger company was officArmy Rangers Training Vietnamese Soldiers; photo courtesy of the U.S. Army, Source: Wikimedia CommonsCredit: photo courtesy of the U.S. Army photographer unknown, Source: Wikimedia Commonsially commissioned for the King Phillip’s War.  Rangers were used in the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the American Civil War.  The modern Rangers were deployed to conflicts in Panama, Grenada, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.[3]

In World War II, during the landing on Omaha Beach at Normandy, then-Brigadier General Norman Cota approached Major Max Schneider, CO of the 5th Ranger Battalion and asked “What outfit is this?”  Schneider answered “5th Rangers, sir!”  To this Cota replied “Well, goddamit, if you’re Rangers, lead the way!”  Thus the motto of the Rangers was born:   “Rangers lead the way!”[2] 

Makeup of the Army Rangers 

The 75th Rangers Regiment is comprised of Ranger Battalions 1st, 2nd, and 3rd along with Regimental Special Troops Battalion.  Each battalion has approximately 600 men and consists of a battalion headquarters and headquarters company (HHC) and three rifle companies.  The HHC is comprised of: [1] 

  • Battalion Company headquarters
  • Fire Support Team (includes Battalion Mortar Platoon)
  • USAF FAC Team
  • Medical Team
  • Communications Team
  • Support Section 

A Ranger rifle company usually has a compliment of 152 Rangers who are divided into the following: [1]

  • HHC
    • 3  rifle platoons consisting of:
    • platoon headquarters
    • 3  rifle squads
    • 1  machine gun squad
  • 1 weapons platoon
    • platoon headquarters
    • mortar section (3 2-man mortar squads
    • anti-armor section (3 3-man Ranger Antitank Weapons System (RAWS) or Javelin teams
    • sniper section (includes 3 2-man Ranger Sniper Teams) 

The Regimental Special Troops Battalion (RSTB) was officially activated in 2007.[1] This battalion supports the rest of the regiment in the following:  Ranger Reconnaissance Company provides advance force reconnaissance; the Ranger Communications Company provides command and control-level communications; the Military Intelligence Company provides intelligence gathering including human, signal and imagery intelligence; the Ranger Operations Company provides  selection and training tasks.[1] 

Requirements for Entry into the Rangers 

Training for entry into the Rangers is rigorous. To be considered for entry into the 75th Ranger Regiment, soldiers must be qualified in their Military Occupational Specialty and be Airborne qualified. Those who entered the Army with Ranger contracts begin with nine weeks of Basic Combat Training (BCT), followed by Advanced Individual Training (AIT) or for infantrymen, 13 weeks of One Station Unit Training (OSUT).[1]  Once this course is completed, prospective Rangers  move on to the pre- Ranger Assessment and Selection PrograPreparing for Army Ranger Course; photo courtesy of U.S. Army Photographer: Spc. Nathaniel Muth, Source: Wikimedia CommonsCredit: photo courtesy of U.S. Army Photographer: Spc. Nathaniel Muth, Source: Wikimedia Commonsm (RASP) preparatory course before moving on to the eight week RASP I.  After successful graduation from RASP I, candidates attend the United Sates Airborne School. Once the Basic Airborne Course is completed, recruits continue to a three-week pre-Ranger course; the Small Unit Ranger Tactics or SURT course.[1]   

Airborne qualified soldiers attend one of two selection programs.  RASP 1 is for soldiers below the grade E-6; all others attend RASP 2 training. All combat arms Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) and officers must be Ranger-qualified before attending the RASP 2 training. After candidates graduate from the RASP 1 or RASP 2 courses, they will be assigned to one of the three Ranger Battalions, the 75th Regimental Headquarters, or the RSTB.  At that time they are authorized to wear the tan beret, the Ranger Scroll of their parent unit and the black physical training uniform.[1]   

Requirements for the RASP courses are strenuous.  To graduate candidates must successfully complete the following:[3]

  • Reach a minimum score of 240 on the APFT (80 percent in each event) and complete six pull-ups
  • 5-mile run in 40 minutes or less
  • 12-mile march in three hours or less carrying a 35-pound rucksack
  • The Ranger Swim Ability Evaluation while displaying confidence in the water
  • Conduct full psychological screening with no major psychological profiles identified by the Regimental Psychologist
  • RASP 1 candidates must pass security screening and receive SECRET clearance prior to attending the course
  • Pass the Commander’s Board-RASP 1 candidates are selected based on peer evaluations, cadre assessment and overall performance. The Commander’s Board is required for all RASP 2 candidates

RASP 1 candidates must successfully complete RASP 1 Program of Instruction to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment.  


Ranger School

The Ranger School is under the control of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.  The first Ranger School class was conducted in early 1952, with the students graduating in March of that year.[1]  At the time, the duration was 59 days and Ranger training was strictly voluntary. Currently, though not all members of the 75th Ranger Regiment are required to attend Ranger School, soldiers in direct combat MOSs (Military Occupational Specialties) cannot occupy leadership positions within the 75th Ranger Regiment unless they have graduated from Ranger School. Non-combat MOS leadership is encouraged but not required to attend Ranger School.[3] 

While the Ranger School accepts candidates from all branches of the United States Military andRanger School Creek Crossing; Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army, Photographer: John D. Helms, U.S. Army, Source: wikimedia CommonsCredit: Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army, Photographer: John D. Helms, U.S. Army, Source: Wikimedia Commons Coast Guard as well as some foreign services, the majority of the students come from the 75th Ranger Regiment and the U.S. Army’s Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course.  The ranks of the students range from Private First Class to Captain.  Lieutenants and specialists make up the largest group of students.  The average age is 23 and the average class size is 366 students.[1] Eleven classes per year are conducted.[1]

Students in the school can anticipate about 20 hours of training per day with an average of three and a half hours of sleep per day.   Generally two or fewer meals are consumed daily, totaling about 2,200 calories.   More sleep is allowed before parachute jumps for safety reasons.  Typically, the Ranger student carries 65-90 pounds of equipment, weapons and training ammunition while patrolling more than 200 miles throughout the course. There are several phases in the 61-day course.[1]

The Benning Phase of Ranger School

The first phase of Ranger School is conducted at Camp Rogers and Camp Darby at Fort Benning, Georgia. It is the “crawl” phase where students learn fundamentals of squad-level mission planning.  This phase is designed to judge a soldier’s physical stamina, mental toughness, leadership abilities and establish tactical fundamentals required for the next phases.  Training is separated into the Ranger Assessment Phase (RAP) and Squad Combat Operations.

 The RAP is conducted at Camp Rogers and encompasses the first three days of training.  About 60 percent of students who fail to graduate do so at this phase.  During this phase students are required:[1]

To pass the Ranger Physical Fitness Test minimums:

  • 49 push-ups in 2 minutes with perfect form
  • 59 sit-ups in 2 minutes
  • 6 chin-ups performed from a dead hang with no lower body movement
  • Complete a 5 mile run over a course with gently rolling terrain in 40 minutes or less
  • Pass the Combat Water Survival Assessment which entails three events testing the student’s ability to calmly overcome any fear of water or heights.  They must calmly walk across a log suspended 35 feet above water, transition to a rope crawl and then plunge into the water. The student must jump into the pond and ditch his rifle and load-bearing equipment while submerged.  The student must climb a ladder to the top of a 70-foot tower and traverse down to the water on a pulley attached to a suspended cable, subsequently plunging into the water. These must be performed calmly and without any safety harness. Failure to negotiate the obstacles results in being dropped from the course.
  • Pass a Combination Night/Day Land Navigation Test. This is one of the most difficult tasks as few students have learned to navigate using a map and compass. Students are given a predetermined number of MGRS locations and testing begins about two hours before dawn.  Flashlights with red lens filters may only be used to reference on the map; use of the flashlight to navigate the terrain results in immediate dismissal from the school.  Later in the course, students are expected to conduct and navigate night patrols while adhering to the light rules.
  • Complete a 3-mile terrain run followed by the Malvesti Field Obstacle Course which features the “worm pit;” a shallow, muddy 25-meter obstacle covered by knee-high barbed wire. The obstacle must be negotiated several times on the back and belly.
  • Complete demolitions training and airborne refresher training
  • Complete a 15-mile forced tactical ruck mark with full gear from Camp Rogers to Camp Darby.

Modern Army Combatives Program is spread over all phases and culminates in the Florida phase.  This is a pass/fail task and if the student fails to maintain the pace set by the instructors, he is dropped from the course.[1]

At Camp Darby the emphasis in on instruction and execution of Squad Combat Operations. It includes instruction on troop leading procedures, principles of patrolling, field craft, demolitions, and basic battle drills.[1]  The Ranger student is prepared to move to the next phase of the course, the Mountain Phase.

Benning Phase 1


The Mountain Phase in Ranger School

The second phase of Ranger School is conducted at Camp Merrill in Georgia.  During this phase, students are instructed on military mountaineering tasks, mobility training and techniques for employing a platoon for continuous combat patrol operations in a mountainous environment.  In this phase the physical and mental strain is pushed to a maximum level.  Camp Merrill is located in an isolated area and the in the winter the temperatures drop very low at night, while the summer brings the heat and poison ivy with which to contend.  

Ranger School Mountain Phase; photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, photographer:  Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, U.S. Air Force, Source: Wikimedia Commons  ForceCredit: photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force- photographer: Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, U.S. Air Force, Source: Wikimedia CommonsIn addition to combat operations, the students receive four days of military mountaineering training. The first two days they learn knots, belays, anchor points, rope management, mobility evacuation and the fundamentals of climbing and abseiling. The following two days apply the learned skills at the lower level by completing an Upper Mountaineering Exercise at Yonah Mountain.[1]  Students must make the prescribed climbs to continue the course.

Combat missions are against a conventionally-equipped threat force in a Mid-Intensity Conflict and are conducted both day and night. Each mission lasts four and five days and includes movement across mountainous terrain, vehicle ambushes, raiding communications and mortar sites, scaling steeply-slope terrains. The students reache their objective going cross-country, parachuting into small drop zones, and through air assaults into small landing zones on the mountain side.

At the end of the Mountain Phase, air-borne students conduct an airborne operation by parachuting into the Florida Phase.  Non-airborne students are bussed to Eglin Air Force Base for the Florida Phase.

Mountain Phase 2


The Florida Phase of Ranger School

The Florida Phase of Ranger School focuses on waterborne operations, stream crossings and small boat movements.[1]  Practical exercises are executed in the coastal swamp environment.  The students’ abilities are further developed to plan and lead small units during both Army Ranger Swamp Training; Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army, Photographer: John D. Helms, U.S. Army, Source: Wikimedia CommonsCredit: Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army, Photographer: John D. Helms, U.S. Army, Source: Wikimedia Commonsindependent and coordinated airborne, air assault, dismounted combat patrol and small boat operations in a low-intensity combat environment against a well-trained sophisticated enemy.

The technique training includes skills needed to operate and survive in a rainforest/swamp environment.  Students learn how to deal with reptiles and determine which snakes are venomous.  The students are evaluated on how well they apply learned skills during the execution of raids, ambushes and movements to contact and urban assaults to accomplish their assigned missions.  The final test is an extensively planned raid of the ALF’s island stronghold.  The small boat operation requires the platoons to work together on separate missions to take down the cartel’s final point of strength.[1]

Florida Phase 3

Students return to Fort Benning for the graduation ceremony.  It is held at Victory Pond and the black and gold Ranger Tab is pinned to the graduating soldier’s left shoulder.  Usually a relative, respected Ranger Instructor or a soldier from the student’s original unit conducts the honor.[1]  The Ranger Tab is worn above the soldier’s unit patch. The tab is permitted to be worn for the remainder of the soldier’s military career.  A cloth version is worn on the Army Combat Uniform and Class-A dress uniform and a smaller metal version is worn on the new Army Service Uniform.


The copyright of the article The Special Forces: The Rangers is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.


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