As a candidate braces for the ground he tries to enjoy the seconds of serenity and breathlessness before impacting and having to carry gear to a consolidation point. From here they venture upon a 12-mile road march after a week of hoarding lactic acid. The body hurts, but the mind craves the solitude of not being messed with for a few hours. The mindless task of walking will become all too familiar and often be referred to as droning. I remember getting through the first week, and finishing with the road march. It took toll on my Achilles tendon. I’m not sure if it was because I walked 12 miles with a limp due to the huge “peanut butter” shot I received in my ass prior to heading off to the field, or if it was simply because I was built more for speed and less for carrying heavy shit.
After arriving at the woodland phase field problem, candidates enter what is the crawl phase of instruction with the walk phase being mountains and the run phase being Florida phase. Candidates are given roster numbers and asked to pay attention at all times. At anytime your number may be called and you can be asked to be in charge of a multitude of assignments varying from weapons squad leader to platoon leader.
Based upon their ability to complete the task in simulated combat complete with artillery simulators and CS grenades, a candidate will then be graded no or no go. The task is up to the Ranger Instructor (RI) discretion but the RIs usually separate the graded mission in three phases. Movement to the objective, the mission at the objective — whether it be completing a recon or ambush — and the final graded exercise, which is usually to set up a patrol base for the night until a new set of well-rested RIs respond to start the next day’s activities.
Candidates in patrol bases in Ranger School almost never get to sleep. In these hours of darkness, the Ranger students yearn to find something to eat and food often becomes more powerful than the mission itself. When everyone is tired, pissed and hungry, it’s a daunting task to be asked to be the leader. This is the true measure of leadership and why Ranger School is the way it is. The mission? To see how people react when nothing is going right and morale is low. For most candidates false motivation is better than no motivation.
At the end of Darby phase your squad will evaluate your efforts within the squad and someone has to be last, just as someone has to be first. Ranger candidates will explain to RIs how the members of the squad are when they think no one is looking: This one of the most important parts of Ranger School. It is set up specifically to challenge the weak link and to see if that link strengthens or if it breaks. By the time the RIs decide your fate at the end of Darby phase, people begin to question their reasons for being there.
This is where people start to miss home, talk about how their families need them or how they have to quit in order to go to combat with their unit. These candidates have yet to walk mount Yonah, pass the knot test, or conquer the nighttime descents of mountaineering. They have yet to enter the copper head- inhabited Yellow river of Florida where alligators will swim next to their zodiac or have upward facing tree stumps ravage their legs as their bodies battle hyperthermia. On average, about 45 percent of Ranger School students will graduate.
We should all find it in us to commend the efforts of all who find the intestinal fortitude to carry on our Ranger history, we should remember where we have come from, where we been and do all that we can to uphold a standard worthy of those that preceded us.
This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on 25 May 2015 and was recently updated.