Phase I of Ranger School is currently twenty-one days in duration and conducted by the 4th Ranger Training Battalion in the heavily forested terrain of Fort Benning, Georgia. Reporting to the Ranger Training Brigade with military and medical records in hand and no rank or service insignia on his uniform, each candidate undergoes an in-processing procedure that begins with, as all things military must, paperwork. Upon completion of the administrative paperwork, the Army Physical Fitness Test-APFT-is administered. The school minimums are fifty-two pushups, sixty-two sit-ups, and a two-mile run in running shoes in less than fourteen minutes and fifty-five seconds. Upon completion of the run, each student must complete six chin-ups. With few exceptions, Ranger students are provided the opportunity to retest any physical or training event they initially fail.

The three-event Combat Water Survival Test is the next challenge to be faced by the prospective Ranger candidate. The uniform for each of these events is fatigues, boots, webbed gear with canteens and ammo pouches, and rifle. The first event is a fifteen-meter swim. The second event has the student submerge, remain underwater while discarding weapon and equipment, and then swim to the side of the pool. The final event requires the student, while blindfolded, to walk off the end of a three-meter diving board, remove the blindfold, and swim to the side of the pool. During the course of each of these events, the student must show no undo fear or panic and, with the exception of the second event, must not lose any of his equipment. For those who have trained properly at home station, the APFT and swim test will prove to be the easiest events to pass at Ranger School.

At this point, the student is assigned to one of three companies, Alpha, Bravo, or Charlie. The remainder of the day is spent being issued equipment, completing additional paperwork, and being assigned a Ranger Buddy. Rangers always do things as part of a team and the Ranger Buddy concept dates back to the Second World War and Darby’s Rangers. Ranger Buddies often remain friends for life.

The APFT begins a segment of training at Camp Rogers referred to as the Ranger Assessment Phase (RAP). RAP was implemented with the first class of 1992 and is a significant change of instruction from prior classes that immediately began the arduous 24-hour a day training. Testing and evaluation is still conducted but in a much less threatening or hostile environment during this period. Students are assessed on previous Ranger School favorites such as the predawn eight minutes per mile runs–be forewarned, the eight minute pace is the Army minimum or standard that the RIs will improve on, the five-mile Ranger run (No Retest), an 12-mile tactical road march (No Retest), as well as day and night land navigation courses.

In general, the RAP schedule is as follows:

  • Day 1:
    • Event -APFT.
    • Event -CWST.
    • Medical Considerations class.
  • Day 2:
    • Event -PT. Standard: 5-mile formation run in 40:00 minutes or less after PT IAW FM 21-20. Event -Land navigation review.
    • Event -Terrain Association. Event – Hand to Hand Combat.
  • Day 3:
    • Event -Night/Day Land Navigation Test.
    • Event -Rangers-In-Action Demonstration.
    • Event – Water Confidence Test
    • Event – Battle Drill/Patrolling Techniques
    • Event – Hand to Hand Combat
  • Day 4:
    • Event -3-Mile Ranger Run/Malvesti Field Obstacle Course
    • Event – Ranger Stakes.
    • Event -Day Land Navigation Retest (Night/Day).
    • Event – Battle Drill/Patrolling Techniques.
  • Day 5:
    • Event -12 mile Foot March
    • Event -Troop Leading Procedures
    • Event -Hand To Hand Combat

Following the APFT and CWST of Day 1, Day 2 of RAP is primarily devoted to familiarization. Day 3 finds the Ranger candidate wet, once more, as he is run through the Water Confidence Test. Conducted throughout the year and suspended only when the water temperature falls below 39 degrees F. or the air temperature or wind chill is lower than 38 degrees F., the Ranger Student must climb a ladder, walk across a log 30 feet above the water, and drop 35 feet from a rope into Victory Pond. The student then exits the water, climbs a 60 foot tower, and suspends from a pulley as he descends down a 200 feet ‘slide for life’ cable back into the water.

Day 4 of RAP proves to be the busiest day of all as the candidates begin the day by tackling the Confidence Course. Consisting of a series of events, the course is designed to build agility and endurance.

Climb a four-meter high log fence without ropes
Enter and negotiate the worm pit (my favorite); a shallow, muddy 25 meter length obstacle covered by knee-high barbed wire. The obstacle must be negotiated on one’s back and belly.
Cross a five-meter long mud pit by going hand-over-hand along rafters/rungs 10 feet above the pit.
Climb a cargo net and then slide down a rope on the other side.

For those who complete the course early, there are always the perennial favorites: pushups and flutter kicks. Of course, there is always the option of going through the course a second time.

Prior to his arrival at Harmony Church, each Ranger candidate must have his commander verify his proficiency in twenty specific military skills that are deemed necessary for successful completion of the Ranger Course:

Call for and adjust indirect fire (STP 21-24 SMCT, pg 55, 061-283-6003)
Camouflage yourself and your individual equipment (STP 21-1 SMCT, pg 393, 051-191-1361)
Use KTC 1400 (STP 7-11BCHM14-SM-TG, pg 3-457, 113-573-4006)
Navigate from one point on the ground to another point while dismounted (STP 21-24 SMCT, pg 21, 071-329-1006)
Determine the grid coordinates of a point on a military map (STP 21-1 SMCT, pg 76, 071-329-1002)
Determine a magnetic azimuth using a lensatic compass (STP 21-1 SMCT, pg 90, 071-329-1003)
Determine the elevation of a point on the ground using a map (STP 21-24 SMCT, pg 36, 071-329-1004)
Determine a location on the ground by terrain association (STP 21-1 SMCT, pg 87, 071-329-1005)
Measure distance on a map (STP 21-1 SMCT, pg 105, 071-329-1008)
Convert azimuths (STP 21-24 SMCT, pg 28, 071-329-1009)
Determine azimuth using a protractor (STP 21-24 SMCT, pg 45, 071-510-0001)
Orient a map using a lensatic compass (STP 21-24 SMCT, pg 30, 071-329-1011)
Orient a map to the ground by map-terrain association (STP 21-1 SMCT, pg 72, 071-329-1012)
Locate an unknown point on a map and on the ground by intersection (STP 21-24 SMCT, pg 39, 071-329-1014)
Locate an unknown point on a map and on the ground by resection (STP 21-24 SMCT, pg 42, 071-329-1015)
Prime explosives non-electrically (STP7-11BCHM14-SM-TG, pg 3-480, 051-193-1003)
Clear a misfire (Demolitions) (STP 7-11BCHM14-SM-TG, pg 3-488, 051-193-2030)
Practice preventive medicine (STP 21-1 SMCT, pg 338, 081-831-1043)
Prepare an M136 Launcher for firing (STP 21-1 SMCT, pg 199, 071-054-0001)
Operate night vision goggles AN/PVS-7 (STP 7-11BCHM-SM-TG, pg 3-340, 071-315-0030)

There are also a series of ten tests referred to as the Ranger Stakes conducted during the RAP on Day 4. These tests provide a quick means of identifying student’s abilities and skills on the following specific individual tasks that deal with communications and light infantry weapons.

Maintain an M60 MG (STP 7-11BCHM14-SM-TG, pg 3-270, 071-312-3025)
Load an M60 MG (STP 21-1 SMCT, pg 251, 071-312-3027)
Prepare a Range Card for an M60 MG (STP 7-11BCHM14-SM-TG pg 3-260, 071-312-3007)
Perform operator maintenance on an M249 MG (STP 7-11BCHM14-SM-TG, pg 3-130, 071-312-4025)
Operate an M249 MG (STP 7-11BCHM14-SM-TG, pg 3-151, 071-312-4027)
Employ an M18A1 Claymore mine (STP 21-1 SMCT, pg 317, 071-325-4425)
Place a radio into operation (AN/PRC-77 or AN/PRC-119) and troubleshoot. (TM 5820-890-10-1, Sec. II-III, and TM 5820-627-12, with changes 1,2 and 3)
Send a radio message (STP 21-1 SMCT, pg 47, 113-571-1016)
Encode and decode messages using KTC 600 Tactical Operations Code (STP 7-11BCHM14-SM-TG, pg 3-454, 113-573-4003)
Use night vision devices (AN/PVS-4’s, 7’s and unaided night vision)

The Ranger Stakes provide the RIs an opportunity to evaluate individual competency and to correct deficiencies on the spot. Those who fail a task are retrained immediately and retested. To continue the course, seven of the ten tasks must be successfully completed on the first or second try. Those failing to meet the standard are disenrolled from the course or recycled into the next class.

In an area outside of Camp Rogers, the students take their land navigation test…both day and night. Ranger candidates are only authorized one compass of military issue to run the land navigation course. Those students found with an additional or non-issue compass, such as an orienteering compass, will be dropped from the course. Any student who fails the day or night land navigation course will be retested. Those who fail a second time will be disenrolled or recycled. Day 5 of RAP completes this segment of training…which is topped off with a 12-mile tactical foot march at a minimum rate of 15 minutes per mile with either a 40-pound rucksack in the winter or a 35-pound rucksack in the summer.

Each day of this assessment period involves a great deal of physical training…whether it be a pre-dawn run or hours of hand-to-hand combat. When a soldier confronts an enemy “up close and personal”…particularly if the soldier is unarmed, the winner of such a meeting engagement will most likely be the one who reacts first, with as much deadly force as possible. Thus, the need for hand-to-hand combat.

Hand-to-hand combat is performed in pairs, where the students learn the basics of how to use their fists, elbows, knees, feet, and even heads to disable an opponent. Boxing is also a part of the program which includes several progressive classes of boxing instruction. Eventually, all Ranger students will be paired off…IAW height and experience…for a 15-second bout to be fought within a 12′ by 12′ ring. The ring is small enough to force ‘eyeball to eyeball’ contact and the session, while short to minimize potential injuries, is long enough to give each student a taste of what it’s like to confront an enemy with only one’s hands.

Despite the garrison environment, complete with barracks and mess hall, many of those who fail, do so during this preliminary phase. For those who successfully complete RAP, the second portion of the Benning phase is conducted at Camp Darby, a facility with few permanent structures. Located deep in the wooded hills of Benning, the Ranger students train, eat, and sleep in the open. It is here, in heavily forested terrain, that the Ranger Student is introduced to the patrolling techniques that will allow the RI to assess the candidate’s leadership abilities under stressful field conditions.

The Darby portion commences with an airborne assault for those qualified. ‘Leg’ students–sorry, I had to say it, though I must sadly admit that I, too, was once a leg Ranger–are trucked. The students assemble in a clearing near the camp’s headquarters and begin three days of intense classroom instruction on patrolling fundamentals, advanced land navigation techniques, troop leading procedures (TLP), battle drills, and leadership responsibilities. PT and runs are still conducted each morning.

Day four of Camp Darby commences with the students assaulting the Darby Queen obstacle course. Consisting of twenty obstacles emplaced along a densely wooded hillside, the Darby Queen tests each student’s endurance, tenacity, and dedication. Crawling, jumping, sliding, and climbing, through, over, and around obstacles, each Ranger negotiates the course with his Ranger Buddy. Assisting each other along the way, the buddy’s complete the course as a team, or they do not complete it at all.

Later that afternoon following the Darby Queen, the students engage in survival training. This training will teach them how to catch, prepare, and cook rabbits, chickens, and fish. Usually, the students are not fed anything earlier in the day so after the arduous physical workout of the Darby Queen, it takes little motivation for a Ranger Student to kill and eat his meal for the day.

With the basic training, the Darby Queen, and survival training out of the way, the remainder of the student’s time at Camp Darby is devoted to field training exercises focusing on reconnaissance operations. Utilizing the crawl, walk, and run method of training, the RIs first demonstrate and guide the students through the task prior to conducting a field training exercise for grade. The graded exercises are squad level missions. Issuing Operations Orders to conduct day or night reconnaissance missions during the final four days of this phase, students attempt to accomplish the mission against an opposing force (OPFOR) that is determined to ‘kill’ or capture them. As an additional incentive against capture, the OPFOR maintains and operates a prisoner of war compound that is as realistic as peacetime constraints allow. The bottom line here is don’t get caught!

Next: Read about a day in the life of a Ranger student going through the Benning Phase.

Referenced from The Coveted Black and Gold: A Daily Journey Through the US Army Ranger School Experience
© LTC JD Lock. Printed with permission.


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The Coveted Black and Gold

John Lock’s vivid description of the Ranger Course explains why it is the most physically, mentally, and psychologically demanding training provided in the U.S. Army. The purpose of this extremely grueling regimen is to develop combat skills of carefully selected and prepared officers and enlisted men. They are required to perform effectively as small unit leaders in a realistic tactical environment under the physical and mental stress approaching that of ground combat. They develop individual combat skills and abilities through the application of leadership principles. Tactical exercises also increase the Ranger trainee’s capability to plan and conduct dismounted infantry, airborne, airmobile, and amphibious independent squad and platoon-size operations. Graduates return to their units with the never-ending mission of sharing their knowledge and skills to build a better, more combat-ready Army. Receiving the Tab is only the beginning; a Ranger is expected to earn that Tab every day of his life.

COL(Ret.) Ralph Puckett
Honorary Colonel of the 75th Ranger Regiment

The Coveted Black and Gold – Book