Advice to my younger self: Ranger school

By Gordon Stock


Hey bro, I know you’re pretty excited to start Ranger School soon, but I got some bad news for you.  After about 50 days, you’re going to be leaving Ranger School, but without a tab.  You’re going to be dropped for failing patrols, twice, and having no case to stay.  But don’t worry about it; it’s going to be simultaneously the best and worst thing to ever happen to you. 

So here’s some advice that you learned the hard way, hopefully, it helps. 


1. Taking it seriously means all of it

Ranger School is supposed to be a simulation of combat.  The physical stress is real, you’re going to be broken down, and you’re going to be hurt.  So getting ready for Ranger School doesn’t mean making sure your fiancé is ok with you leaving, or that your gear is sorted and labeled 1000 times over, and that your lease is going to be paid on time, though that is important.  Getting ready is putting your body through the ringer more than once and doing the workouts that hurt your body as well as your mind.  It means mentally rehearsing the push-ups on the RPA over and over and not trying to war-game what spot in line you’re going to get to try to get one over on the RIs. It means being ready to re-test and taking every opportunity you have to prepare, even if its an uncomfortable two weeks at pre-Ranger.    

2. Your chassis is going to keep you alive out there

It’s great if you can barely pass the RPA and the ruck, but what happens after that?  The rest of Ranger School is going to greatly rely on your ability to carry weight and keep moving with that weight.  And the bare minimum isn’t good enough if you want to be a team player and a man that others can respect; you need to be able to carry the 240 or the litter.  So stop doing pushups and sit-ups and pick up a barbell.  Make your core stronger with some deadlifts and make your legs as strong as possible with some squats.   You know you’re not strong enough, so don’t ignore it, embrace it and fix it. 

3. You don’t know anything yet, accept it

You’re one of a million new lieutenants to go to Ranger and a mediocre one at that.  When you get there, pay attention, try to learn from the RIs, and don’t bitch about “the game” or “RI roulette”.  Even if it exists, the fastest way out is through, so learn the Darby systems, listen to the RIs, and give 110% at everything.  Use the little you know to help your squad out, but otherwise shut up and listen to the experience around you that has seen combat or spent a few years in the force actually doing their jobs.  This advice is going to be the hardest to swallow for you, but your arrogance and entitlement is going to be why you leave without a tab. Ranger School is not something you just suck through on your way to be an infantry officer.  It’s something you have to earn your way through in order to earn the respect of much harder men later on. 

Honestly, it might be too late for you to take some of this stuff to heart, but I hope you can change a few things sooner rather than later. 

But here’s the good news.  Even if you fail, it will probably be a wake-up call, and you’ll get your house in order.  Yeah, it will suck showing up to your unit without a tab, but it will make you appreciate what is given to you.  Eventually, you’ll get a platoon and maybe a chance to go back to Ranger School, where you’ll probably realize every tiny thing you messed up on as a younger man.  And someday you’ll get to feel the inflation of pride that you deserve as your wife pins on a little black and gold tab.  But until then, good luck.


About the Author: 
Gordon Stock is an infantry platoon leader in the US Army. He enjoys reading, hanging with his dogs, and putting in hard work at the gym.



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