2019 Ranger School AAR

Three phases and 62 days of hell. This section named in honor of MAJ John Whyte who was taken from us on 04/17/05.
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2019 Ranger School AAR

Post by LionsDen » March 17th, 2019, 8:49 am

I wanted to take a moment fresh out of Ranger School to write down some stuff I learned from my time there, because when I went to Ranger School, I didn't know anything about the school itself other than I knew I needed to go. If anyone has any questions, feel free to PM me or ask. I tried to avoid talking about the stuff that is easily google-able, but I'll still answer any question unless it's about how much Ranger School sucks. It sucks. From here on out, everything else was written in a different program, so if you spot any formatting or computer issues, please let me know.

For those aspiring to get their tab, I'd wanted to take some time to briefly reflect on what I learned, and what tips I picked up over my time in school, in the hopes none of you ever have to recycle (much less recycle Mountains... *shivers*).

For background, I went through RAP Week, Darby, and Mountains with B Co in November and December. I did Mountains and Florida with C Co in January and February after a medical recycle.

Supplies: (Just the stuff to watch out for on the packing list)
550 cord - Even though it's on the FTX packing list, nobody ever seems to have any...
Magazines - These mysteriously disappear and a platoon where everyone shows up with 7 mags will end up 3 dozen short after the first FTX.
Lum/100 mph/clear tape - Do not go buy this, it's expensive as hell, especially lum tape. Go to your supply and get two rolls at least to keep in your duffels.
Lighters - Another item that somebody will borrow and never give back. Bring 4 or 5 of those dirt cheap gas station lighters and keep 2 on you at all times.
Knife - Either bring a backup or tie yours down with 550 to your belt loops, and get a cheap $20 knife from the PX just for school. These will go missing often as well.
Gum - They recently removed the limit on gum. Buy all sorts of fruity, gay flavors; You'll be craving it. The airheads gum is a serious commodity.
Baby wipes - Plan on one pack per phase. They will take your wipes in Florida, but give them back the day you leave for FTX.
Hand Sanitizer - Buy one or two of those tiny pocket-sized bottles. They are great for erasing map markers, and quick hand cleaning when you're on a time hack to eat an MRE.
Contractor bags - These are excellent and durable waterproofers but cost a small fortune. I recommend 4 bags at a minimum, or if you're going the cheap route, 2 garbage bags = 1 contractor bag.

Equipment:

Gloves - Being in a winter class, I felt gloves were a deal maker or breaker. A good, waterproof pair will save your fingers and your morale. The winter ones they sell at Commandos and Ranger Joes are absolute crap. I bought two pairs: a tactical pair from Ranger Joes, and the civilian Burton Gore-tex winter gloves. My first Mountains, I had those crappy gloves from Commando's that are advertised as waterproof but will quickly soak through, and paid dearly when the temperature dropped and we were in snow.
Summer Boots - You need two pairs, but I'd recommend a third if you can afford it. Each phase you'll lock away a pair in your contingency bag. I recommend and wore the Garmont T8 Bfida through Darby and Mountains, but they dry far too slowly for Florida. I wore Belleville 390s for Florida. I wouldn't recommend them, but I already had them, and they dry far quicker than Garmonts.
Winter Boots - the only thing that matters is you have a solidly waterproof pair. You have two options - buy a Gore-tex pair and spray additional waterproofing on it, or buy the Rocky S2Vs. Especially in winter, the S2Vs were very popular, but they're quite pricey. A cheaper alternative is to go to Tier 1, and buy a used Gore-tex pair, and then spray them so they don't soak through when it rains or you hop a stream. I did option 1 my first mountains, and then bought the S2Vs for my second. It definitely just depends on the weather in your class, but if you're going in the middle of winter, I recommend the S2Vs.
Note:Winter boot wear will be mandated by the cadre. If you don't have thinsulate in your boots, you'll have to wear the inserts. We only wore winter boots in Mountains, and only when it got real cold my first Mountains. Don't plan on wearing winter boots much, but if the cadre make you wear them, it's nice to have a good pair.
Socks - Buy a couple pairs of Darn Toughs. You really only need 3 or 4, but the more the merrier. I and most others only changed socks when they got wet, just ensure you bring foot powder in your ruck.
Underwear - Don't wear it. Some LT will wear the same pair of underwear for all of Ranger School and get some nasty infection. You don't need it.

Save on some money and don't drop your paycheck on all the pre-made OPORD/BTL/PSG crap from Ranger Joe's, it gets taken during bag dumps. The recycles in each phase will know what products you need to make with lum tape, 100 mph tape, clear tape, and cardboard.

Misconceptions
Ranger School is 61 days of living in the field: Sort of. In Mountains and Florida, you'll get a couple days before the FTX to take classes and sleep in the barracks, although you'll still go out in the field during the day for PEs.

Mail
You can get any mail as long as there is no contraband. Your family can send you TA-50, gum, photos, and letters. The Ranger School Support Group starts a new Facebook page for each class, and they do a really good job of explaining to your family the details around mail. In Florida, though, you will only get mail once: the night before you bus back to Camp Rogers for graduation, and they'll never empty the mailbox there. My family is still waiting on the letters I wrote in Florida during techniques week.

Waterproofing

Waterproof everything as soon as you pack for the first FTX in Darby, and never get caught without everything waterproofed. Most people learn this at Cole Range, but there's one or two guys who won't waterproof anything until after the first time their stuff gets soaked. Nothing is worse than crawling into a soaking wet sleep system, or realizing your spare dry uniform is thoroughly wet. The rule is 2 is 1, and 1 is none, in reference to the layers of protection. How you pack your ruck is up to you, but I had my stuff separated into 5 contractor bags, with individual item groups in ziploc bags or using the waterproof bag in addition.

Extra Pouches
This is company dependent. In B Co, we were only allowed the issued two sustainment pounches and nothing more. C Co let us attach butt packs, and any unused E-Tool pouches could be used to carry items in Mountains. The general rule of thumb is you most likely won't get to use a third sustainment pouch, and you'll be issued a butt pack, so don't waste any money on pouches.

Fires

One thing that will make you an asset in winter classes is if you learn to make fires before Ranger School. In Darby, we were given burn barrels a couple times to dry out clothes when it was cold. My first Mountains, we made apex fires in the patrol base two or three times, which you will want to make quickly, as it will be the last thing before your rest plan. Either save your MRE matches in a beverage pouch, or bring a couple waterproof matches. In Mountains, you'll get a heat tab, which makes fire building much easier.

Sleep
Sleep is a rarity and sometimes even an inconvenience in School. You're going to fall asleep doing anything: pulling security, walking, talking, etc. If somebody wakes you up, you might think you were awake, but you probably weren't (I'm guilty of that; We all are). If someone else is falling asleep, read the situation. If you can, offer to stay awake and watch for an RI while your buddy gets even 10 minutes of sleep. People remember that kind of stuff. This is more prevalent in the patrol base in Mountains and Florida, where you'll find yourself with down time occasionally.It is really funny to be talking to someone, and then realize the guy fell asleep mid sentence. He'll wake up thirty seconds later and keep talking like nothing happened. I fell asleep mid-sentence on the phone with my parents on Darby pass.

AARs

AARs will be conducted multiple times a day. The cadre will give you feedback after actions on and again when they issue you a GO/NO-GO in every phase.

Equipment Checks

The cadre will do 100% equipment checks after every movement until Florida, where they will do serialized item checks and then a full 100% when they change RIs. Basically, just make sure your stuff is tied down but easily accessible in your ruck. The equipment doesn't change from SURT to Ranger School, so get used to those.

Comms
You use MBITRs and ASIPs in Ranger School. Because all Ranger School equipment is absolutely trashed, you will have to work to make your comms effective. In Mountains, forget about it, you'll never have comms. But Darby and Florida, if you properly use the radio, you might actually get good comms. You'll have to know how to set them up for RTTs, but for some reason everyone will brain dump that immediately after. Make sure you do comms checks every time before you step off, and if you love the radio, it will love you in return.

RAP Week
RAP Week really isn't that bad. If you're in A or C Co, it'll be a cakewalk. B Co is a little worse, but then again, I felt Cole Range was far worse than RAP week, so coming from Regiment, you should have no problem. It's very fast paced, though. Sunday is the bag dump, and some admin stuff. Monday and Tuesday is almost all your graded events, as well as combatives. Play it safe in combatives; Don't go so hard in the paint you break an ankle or risk injury. It's just a couple simple takedowns from standing and some ground moves. Getting hurt in this event is a really, really stupid reason to get dropped - it's not even graded. Wednesday we went to CIF, and Thursday was our 12 mile. Again, take it easy here. I rolled in at an easy 2:45 with one of my buddies from RASP. In B Co we spent the rest of the day playing games, so that energy was better saved. After that, you'll have the jump into Darby. My memory's fuzzy, I believe we did it Friday, but don't quote me on that.

Darby
Darby is a lot of classes, and two 3-day FTXs. The classes will consist almost entirely of struggling to stay awake, and then having to reread your notes or Ranger Handbook later. You'll live out at the planning bays, and get lots of practice living out of a rucksack. All those extra supplies people (myself included) buy get locked away with your duffels, unless you fit it in your rucksack, which you then have to carry around. Being a PFC in Regiment, I didn't know what an OPORDER was until SURT, and you'll do an OPORDER every day in the Darby FTX. Get with a squared-away IBOLC LT, and find one part of the OPORDER and get good at it. Chances are, you'll get put on Paragraph 4, which is the only portion an enlistedman would normally do. If you know how to do Paragaph 4 ahead of time, especially as junior enlisted, you'll find yourself a valuable part of a team, and more importantly, up on peers.

Graded leadership consists of an alpha team leader, bravo team leader, and squad leader, who switch halfway through the mission to new leadership. Darby grading is pure luck. Some of the best guys will get NO-GOs, and some of the worst guys will get GOs. All the cadre want you to do is check blocks, a mentality you'll spend the rest of Ranger School breaking. Regardless, follow the Ranger handbook to a T and you'll be fine most likely. B Co is the place to be here, as their GO rate tends to be higher. For us, B Co's Darby pass rate was 20% higher than the other companies.

The cadre will let you use the showers before the first FTX and after the second FTX. Especially in winter, the freezing showers were no fun, but it's important to use them. Hygiene is important.

All the stuff you forget to buy before school, you can buy on your Darby pass. As long as you have the packing list, you'll be fine. On that pass, the Ranger School Support Group will have Ranger goo just outside the gate, even if you recycle. Get as much as you can, it's delicious.

Mountains
A week of Mountaineering and Techniques to rest after Darby. The first 48 hours of classes are almost entirely knots, and they give you three chances in practice to pass the knots test: a pre-test, the test, and a re-test after cadre retraining, so don't worry about it. You only need to get 5 of 7 knots to pass, with three of those being the critical knots of clove hitch, munter hitch, and rerouted figure eight, all three of which are quite easy. However, you will have to dress up your knots, so just keep that in mind. 7 out of 7 on the pre-test is a major plus, which is critical if you're in B Co. The rest of the week is a bunch of mountains techniques they don't use on the FTX. In B Co, we didn't use any of it. In C Co, we had to do a skedco hauling system once, but nothing fancy, as you decide which system yourself. Then platoon tactics for a couple days, and off to the FTX.

In Mountains, you'll have a locker by your bunk in the barracks again. After the bag dump, you won't have to move your stuff out of the locker until you leave for Florida, so you can move in to an extent.

On the FTX, they are mostly looking for you to think freely and break out of the Darby mindset. They talk constantly about not being a block-checker, but they want a mix. There's still some stuff they'll want you to do just because, but for the most part they're not grading you on the grading checklist, rather on how you react to situations and use common sense. I got a GO as PL by reconning and emplacing a raid in 45 minutes. Granted, I violated a lot of procedures in the Ranger Handbook, but they gave me a GO for freely thinking and meeting the time hack, the only real block you have to check.

Graded leadership consists of security SL, weapons SL, assault 1/2 SLs, PSG, and PL. Leadership completely changes halfway through the mission, normally before actions on. Your squad's role will change every morning, but not mid-mission, so you won't have to switch from weapons to security mid-mission, but you will have the same squad every day. Non-graded leadership of RTO, FO, and medic are usually the people the cadre think are squared away to help graded leadership get GOs. Everyone will get two looks, and most people will get three looks, even if you already have a GO.

If you are leadership during planning, your grade is more dependant on the patrol base and the FRAGO, plus you'll likely have a react to contact and movement partially to the objective. Mountains patrol bases are more just designated plots of land where you drop rucks, as you won't do a real patrol base until Florida. I'm not sure about other platoons, but we were pretty trash at patrol bases in Mountains, so every morning we'd take IDF, but they won't blow you out or put you in contact generally.

The refit day will likely turn into a spot-report frenzy, and the cadre will probably just shit on you during the time allocated for them to guide your SOP development. But, you will still get some good time in there to iron out issues from the first FTX, so it would be beneficial to keep track of issues your platoon had the first FTX.

Cadre designate snivel, and it's an SOR probation to wear any other snivel. They will let you wear some here, though.

Florida
Florida is the shortest of the phases, being a couple days of techniques, a 10-day FTX, and then a week of graduation. Florida is where the cadre will really hand you a lot of rope, and tell you not to hang yourself with it. They don't want you to do some unnecessarily complicated bullshit, but they absolutely want you to use common sense in everything. My look as security squad leader, we swapped the 249s normally on security for gun teams, because our gun teams had no ammo and were essentially useless on the objective. The cadre will walk around and constantly ask what you are doing, and most of the time, they genuinely just want to see your thought process and if you have a reason, they'll let you keep going. Long story short, do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission, and have violence of action, and you'll be fine.

You'll have to re-waterproof your ruck, this time leaving air pockets for when you do swamp movements or rope bridges. An extremely buoyant ruck makes rope bridges much easier.

Florida is much more patrol base focused. Some days, you'll be in the patrol base until 1400 or 1500. You'll take contact every day in the patrol base. You now have to dig fighting positions every day, and properly go through the priorities of work.

Graded leadership positions don't change, but during the mid-mission changeover, only the PL and PSG change. Squad leaders are now a 24 hour role. Because of this, there are less looks, so once you get a GO, you likely won't get another look unless your squad has a high GO rate. It also means you likely will only get two looks, if that, if you are a NO-GO.

The cadre in C Co Florida were complete dicks, but when it came time for grading, they were fair and generally wanted to actually teach us. They won't help you during your patrol, which they shouldn't, but their AARs were really thorough.

Graduation week is stupid as shit. You'll spend a ridiculous amount of time "cleaning your TA-50 by hand" and cleaning your weapon long after it is definitely clean. They never even checked our weapons, they just had us do weapons maintenance for 36 hours and played dumb games with us. Most of your TA-50 will get rejected when you go Wednesday morning, but you can clean it on the pass at the laundromat that day like a normal person and they'll take almost everything Thursday.

If I forgot anything, or if anybody else who has recently been wants to chime in, please go ahead. If you were dropped, please leave a comment too - the more we can prevent people from being dropped, the better.
Last edited by LionsDen on March 21st, 2019, 7:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
RASP Class 08-18
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Re: 2019 Ranger School AAR

Post by Disinfertention » March 21st, 2019, 5:08 pm

Andrew, great AAR. It will give someone trying to gain insight a good idea of what to prep for and what they can do to improve their chances. Stickied for folks to find for all of time here!
HHC 2/75 2012-2015
HHC & Cco 1/75 2010-2012
OCS Cadre 2007-2010
Cco 3/75 2003-2007
Ranger School 09 - 04

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