In the Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP), now the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP), I learned a lot of things through difficult and seemingly meaningless and impossible tasks. I learned a lot through hitting the wood line, sand babies, and the Circle of… well, you either know the name or you do not. The first day in RIP they told us there were too many people. So, we had to pair up, koala crawl down a football field, switch, and come back. The last X amount of people were out…
That night, we were told to take apart hundreds of bunk beds on the top two floors of the building, where we slept, move them down to the “pad” (about the size of two basketball courts), and reassemble them. Sometime in the early hours of the morning, we were called to formation at the pad. We were told to make it work. So, we stood on our knees on the beds in squads, as best we could, and attempted some form of parade rest and attention. We were then told to put them all back upstairs and we could sleep once that was done but had to be in formation at X time. We all received about an hour’s sleep that night.
From the first day on, you learn to make things work, big and small. It engrains in you this mentality of working with what you have to solve a problem. It breaks you of simple mental frameworks. During RIP, we were only allowed to use a spoon to eat. So, breakfast was not too bad, but lunch and dinner became difficult. We were not only under a time constraint but now we were stuck eating with only a spoon. You quickly learned techniques to solve these problems. We all looked in horror when the first person raised up their plate, placed their mouth on it and used the spoon to shovel in the food. We looked on, waiting for the tyrannical screams of the instructors about their atrocious manners, only to realize they stared on with amusement. Finally, someone figured it out. Traditional manners had no place here.
On our last day, we were rewarded with a juicy steak. Everyone was excited, but quickly realized we were still only allowed the spoon. What ensued was impaled steaks for which people tore pieces off with their teeth. Right up until someone placed their spoon down, grabbed their steak with their hands, and began eating. Sometimes, you do not even need a spoon. RIP was about trying new things, thinking outside the box, failing, but, above all, NEVER quitting. The lessons I learned in RIP have lived with me ever since. I can look back now and think to myself, I learned a lot from eating with a spoon.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
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