Although the U.S. Army’s Rangers proudly trace their style of combat and tactics all the way back to the American Revolution, it wasn’t until the onset of the Korean War that a training program was implemented to specifically focus on the skills, tactics, and weapons employed by these elite warriors. Founded with the formation and training of 17 Airborne Companies, the Ranger Training Command was launched in September, 1950 at Fort Benning Georgia; a little more than a year would go by before the Command was inactivated and a new Ranger Department was established within the Infantry School at Fort Benning.

While there have been some changes in the training methods and environs since that time, the ultimate goal of the Ranger School remains unchanged: To teach the Army’s “cream of the crop” of officers and enlisted personnel how to become highly effective small-unit leaders by exposing them to the types of physical, mental, and psychological stressors they’ll have to face in actual combat situations.

Just how effective the training at the Ranger School truly is can be seen in the fact that, for a nearly twenty-year period that came to an end in the early 1970s, the Army sought to have at least one Ranger-qualified noncommissioned officer in every infantry platoon and one Ranger-qualified officer per company. (In 1954, the Army mandated that all combat-arms officers were to be Ranger/Airborne qualified.)

The current Ranger course comprises almost nine weeks (62 days) and is divided into three phases: Benning, Mountain, and Swamp. The Benning phase is split into a Ranger Assessment Phase (“RAP week”) and the Darby Phase. Physical conditioning and endurance tests begin on Day One with the Ranger Physical Assessment; candidates are required to complete a requisite numbers of push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, and a timed five-mile run (not in that order), followed by the Combat Water Survival Assessment at Victory Pond.

More can obviously be written about the extreme physical challenges Ranger candidates must overcome during RAP week, but the dropout rate—more than half the class toss in the towel by the week’s end—should give you an idea of just how intense the training can be. Squad-level operations such as ambushes, recon missions, and base patrols are some of the focal points of the Darby Phase.

As the names indicate, the Mountain and Swamp phases introduce new types of terrain to the mix, along with increasingly complex combat techniques and maneuver tactics employing platoons. A complete rundown of the details for each phase is found on the Student Information page of the 4th Ranger Training Battalion.

Aside from graduates of the Ranger School or veterans who completed the courses held by the Ranger Training Command back in the 1950s, the only other Army personnel authorized to wear the Ranger tab are World War II veterans who earned the Combat Infantryman Badge while serving in a Ranger Battalion or in the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) and the 475th Infantry Regiment, famously nicknamed “Merrill’s Marauders.”
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