Anyone who has had the pleasure of enduring 62 days of the Army’s premier leadership school knows that is always best to quit Ranger School in the morning.
Ranger School is Groundhog Day on steroids. You may have heard a Ranger School graduate say, “I’d do it again.” That statement is a sign of a delusion of grandeur teetering on the brink of clinical insanity.
When some of the most elite Soldiers in the Army must attach their weapons to their uniforms with airborne-worthy string because they will forget their instrument of war due to fatigue…well, that’s a problem.
So, Ranger School must be really hard? And, it is. And, it is not.
It is hard for the body to function on little sleep and food while staying mentally active and physically engaged for 20-plus hours a day. I know the hard cores are going to hate this, but for anybody to complete Ranger School, there is some luck involved. Prepare all you want, but when (not if) that deadfall you trip over sends you down the side of a mountain in Dahlonega AND you remain unscathed…it is luck.
It is not hard to conduct the operations expected of a Ranger School student. The missions are extremely basic infantry maneuver tasks. Thousands of Soldiers have figured it out since 1950 and thousands will figure it out in the coming years. After all, those that stick with the course have an 80% pass rate.
So, what is the key to passing Ranger School? The secret sauce?
Quit. You quit Ranger School every morning.
As soon as you wake up, you take your pen, open your notebook, and cross the day off as complete. Then, you tell yourself, “Well, I am already up now, but I am quitting tomorrow morning.”
Growing up in a lower-middle-class family in southeast Ohio work ethic was something to hang your hat on. We might not have had the material possessions that others did, but, by God, we can outwork anyone. If you start something, finish it. Quit once the job is done.
That mindset has been a part of who I am for better or worse for the past 46 years. As a result, my best friends are hard workers. I have wealthy friends, poor friends, “watch this, hold my beer” friends, and one step away from “three square meals in a taxpayer-supported facility” friends. But, all of my close friends WORK.
It should be no surprise that one of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 5:1-5. When I was younger, I would focus on verses 3 and 4, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
When you do not grow up with much, you try to control what you can control. For me, it was the work I put into school and sports. As I grew up, the verses surrounding 3 and 4 started making a lot more sense. I think you should read it for yourself. It is hyperlinked. I’d like to make it easier, but I want you to WORK for it.
What makes a Ranger School student continue along a journey of deprivation? What makes someone endure physical pain for two or more months?
Hope. Hope is always the reason. There has got to be a reason to endure any challenge. A hope of a better outcome.
That is why Romans 5:1-5 is so powerful to me. The Creator of the world gave us the promise of eternal life and sent his Son to Earth to serve as the means to get us to Him.
If living forever is not high on your list of desires – I got nothing for you. If eternal life sounds like a pretty good reason to be hopeful then your suffering, perseverance, and character have meaning. They have value.
Now, we can see obstacles as opportunities. We know the pain we feel is real, but only temporary compared to the joy awaiting us. We understand the folly of chasing possessions and instead treasure our relationships.
Hope is something you want to have in your rucksack.
This brings us back to my quitting Ranger School.
For 61 days, I knew I would eventually quit. I finally reached my breaking point after my squad leader pinned the coveted black and gold tab on my uniform. I left Ranger School for good and went directly to the 3rd Ranger Battalion dining facility to eat followed by my room to sleep. I woke up at night, not in the morning.
I finally quit.
Photo courtesy of Fort Benning Public Affairs