Ranger School is one of the toughest training courses for which a Soldier can volunteer. Army Rangers are experts in leading Soldiers on difficult missions - and to do this, they need rigorous training. For more than two months, Ranger students train to exhaustion, pushing the limits of their minds and bodies.
The purpose of the Army's Ranger course is to prepare these Army volunteers - both officers and enlisted Soldiers - in combat arms related functional skills. The Rangers' primary mission is to engage in close combat and direct-fire battles.
The Ranger Course was conceived during the Korean War and was known as the Ranger Training Command. The Ranger Training Command was inactivated and became the Ranger Department, a branch of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga., Oct. 10, 1951. Its purpose was, and still is, to develop combat skills of selected officers and enlisted men. This requires them to perform effectively as small-unit leaders in a realistic, tactical environment, and under mental and physical stress; approaches that are found in actual combat. Emphasis is placed on the development of individual combat skills and abilities through the application of the principles of leadership, while further developing military skills in the planning and conduct of dismounted infantry, airborne, airmobile, amphibious independent squad, and platoon-size operations. Graduates return to their units to pass on these skills.
From 1954 to the early 1970's, the Army's goal, though seldom achieved, was to have one Ranger qualified non-commissioned officer per infantry platoon and one officer per company. In an effort to better achieve this goal, in 1954, the Army required all combat arms officers to become Ranger/Airborne qualified.
The Ranger course has changed little since its inception. Until recently, it was an eight-week course divided into three phases: "crawl," "walk," and "run." The course is now 61 days in duration and remains divided into three phases: "benning," "mountain," and "florida."
The Benning phase of Ranger School is designed to assess a Soldier's physical stamina, mental toughness, and establishes the tactical fundamentals required for follow-on phases of Ranger School. During this 21-day phase, Ranger instructors, coach, teach, and mentor each student to sustain himself, his subordinates, maintain his mission essential equipment, and accomplish the mission under difficult field training conditions. Each Soldier that volunteers for Ranger training has proven themselves as a leader in their sending unit and arrives in top physical condition. However, only 50 percent of Ranger students will complete this first phase.
This phase is conducted in two parts: The Ranger assessment phase, commonly referred to as "RAP week," and the patrolling phase, commonly referred to as "Darby phase." RAP week begins with the Ranger physical assessment, known as RPA, requiring 49 push-ups, 59 sit-ups, 5-mile run in 40:00 minutes or better, and six chin-ups. Following the RPA, students conduct the combat water survival assessment at Victory Pond, land navigation refresher training, and finish the day with a brigade in-brief.
Day two begins at 3:30 a.m. with the night and day land navigation test. Following land navigation, Rangers are tested on common Soldier skills such as weapons and communication training. The second day finishes with a 2.1 mile two-man buddy run in Army combat uniform, known as ACU, un-bloused combat boots, Camelback, carrying an M4, wearing a headlamp, and no headgear. The buddy run culminates on Malvesti Confidence Course, which contains the infamous "worm pit." The fourth and final day of RAP week consists of instruction on proper assembly and security of equipment, and culminates with the 12-mile foot march with each student carrying an average load of 35 pounds, without water.
After RAP week, only two-thirds of the class will continue to the patrol phase. This phase begins with fast paced instruction on troop leading procedures, principles of patrolling, demolitions, field craft, and basic battle drills focused towards squad ambush and reconnaissance missions. Before students begin practical application on what they have learned, they will negotiate the Darby Queen Obstacle course, consisting of 20 obstacles stretched over one mile of uneven hilly terrain. Upon completion of the Darby Queen, students conduct three days of non-graded, squad-level patrols, one of which is entirely cadre led. After the last non-graded patrol day, students conduct two days of graded patrols, one airborne operation, and four more days of graded patrols before moving on to the mountain phase of Ranger School.
In order to move forward, each student must demonstrate their ability to plan, prepare, resource, and execute a combat patrol as a squad leader or team leader. Students must prove this to the Ranger instructors and more importantly to their peers as the final hurdle to moving forward is the peer evaluation. Only Soldiers who give 100 percent of themselves to their peers and squad will be likely candidates to continue forward to the mountain phase, and ultimately earn their Ranger Tab.
During the mountain phase at Camp Frank D. Merrill in the northern Georgia mountains, students receive instruction on military mountaineering tasks, mobility training, as well as techniques for employing a platoon for continuous combat patrol operations in a mountainous environment. They further develop their ability to command and control platoon-size patrols through planning, preparing, and executing a variety of combat patrol missions. The Ranger students continue to learn how to sustain himself and his subordinates in the adverse conditions of the mountains. The rugged terrain, severe weather, hunger, mental and physical fatigue, and the emotional stress that the student encounters afford him the opportunity to gauge his own capabilities and limitations as well as that of his peers.
Ranger students receive four days of training on military mountaineering. During the first two days at the lower mountaineering; Ranger students learn about knots, belays, anchor points, rope management and the basic fundamentals of climbing and rappelling. Mountaineering training culminates with a two-day exercise at Yonah Mountain, applying the skills learned during lower mountaineering. Students conduct one day of climbing and rappelling over exposed, high-angle terrain. The second day, squads perform mobility training to move their personnel, equipment, and simulated casualties through severely restrictive terrain using fixed ropes and hauling systems.
Following mountaineering, students conduct four days of combat techniques training. During this training, students receive classes and perform practical exercises on movement to contact, patrol base, Troop Leading Procedures, Operations Orders, known as OPORD, combatives, ambush and raid.
Students then perform ten days of patrolling during two field training exercises. Combat patrol missions are directed against a conventionally equipped threat force in a low intensity conflict scenario. These patrol missions are conducted both day and night and include Air Assault operations and extensive cross country movements through mountainous terrain. The Ranger students execute patrol missions requiring the use of their mountaineering skills. Platoon missions include movements to contact, vehicle and personnel ambushes, and raids on communication and mortar sites. Students also conduct river crossings and scale steeply sloped mountain. The stamina and commitment of the Ranger student is stressed to the maximum. At any time, he may be selected to lead tired, hungry, physically expended students to accomplish yet another combat patrol mission.
At the conclusion of the mountain phase, students move by bus or parachute assault into the third and final Phase of Ranger training, conducted at Camp Rudder, near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
This phase focuses on the continued development of the Ranger student's combat arms functional skills. Students receive instruction on waterborne operations, small boat movements, and stream crossings upon arrival. Practical exercises in extended platoon-level operations executed in a coastal swamp environment test the students' ability to operate effectively under conditions of extreme mental and physical stress. This training further develops the students' ability to plan and lead small-units during independent and coordinated airborne, air assault, small boat, and dismounted combat patrol operations in a low-intensity combat environment against a well-trained, sophisticated enemy.
The Florida Phase continues small-unit tactical training through a progressive, realistic, contemporary operating environment. Students conduct ten days of patrolling during two field training exercises. The field training exercises are fast paced, highly stressful, and challenging exercises in which the students are evaluated on their ability to apply small-unit tactics and techniques during the execution of raids, ambushes, movements to contact, and urban assaults to accomplish their assigned missions.