Rangers (and Their Families) Lead the Way

For many soldiers in the Army, Ranger School is one of the toughest courses of all Army training. If your spouse, child, sibling or battle buddy is heading to Ranger School in Fort Benning, Georgia, this is going to be an exciting time for all involved.

Ranger School is a 61-day leadership course focused on small-unit tactics and combat arms skills. This demanding school starts at Camp Rogers for a one-week Ranger Physical Assessment, or RAP Week. Next comes the Darby patrolling phase, also in Fort Benning. The Mountain phase in Northern Georgia is where students will learn military mountaineering. Finally, Florida phase concludes with a focus on cross-water and small-boat movements. By the end, your Ranger will be an expert in leading soldiers on difficult missions under any condition. Ranger School is known to be one of the most difficult schools in the Army, which is why that tab is a coveted patch of honor for all who have earned it.

There are hundreds of books, blogs, YouTube videos and documentaries on tips and tricks for the “Ranger student.” For example, my husband was told to bring a pair of suspenders because he may lose so much weight throughout training that a belt won’t work. Another great tip is to keep your socks in a waterproof plastic bag, and then you always have a dry pair.  While your soldier is meticulously doing their research on what to expect and going over their packing list, I would encourage family members to be actively learning about the process so they can be supportive.

My husband left for Ranger School in the late spring, so we are in the thick of all the Darby, Mountain, and Florida phase madness. My first piece of advice for family members of Ranger students is to do your research and be a part of your soldier’s conversations. Ranger School is most likely consuming their thoughts leading up to their report date and there will certainly be stories to share after. Being informed will make all the acronyms and phases seem a little bit less foreign.

Next, find the Ranger School Support Group social media page. This is an incredible resource and will have an answer to any question you may have. More specifically, there is also a group dedicated to your soldier’s Ranger School class that can be joined after you know what their report date is. Having a tribe who understand and can empathize with the stress, excitement, loneliness and anticipation of everything is always helpful.

My last piece of advice is to send your soldier off with some photos and a letter or two. A few wallet-size photos with some words of encouragement are sure to brighten their day after a tough week. Again, make everything as waterproof as possible with packing tape and plastic bags.

Though you may be sad about the distance and lack of communication, the opportunity to volunteer for this school is something that should make you so proud of your soldier. Focus on this part of it. Know that your support and encouragement is everything to your loved one, and it’s the best gift you could give leading up to their Ranger School report date. Rangers lead the way!

Practice Self-Love but Perfect Self-Lead

Self-love is a great movement that is important for women around the world and an important habit we should all practice. Past generations were not taught to stop and consider taking time for themselves. But there is something that is just as important, and that is learning to self-lead.

As little girls, when we showed our leadership potential, we were often called bossy and dismissed. Learning to self-lead, after years of having our natural talents belittled, feels foreign. But it’s important to stop feeding the script of the past and start stepping into who we were called to be. Here are three helpful tips to perfect self-leading:

  1. Believe you are capable. “I don’t know how you do it all.” Have you ever heard that and instantly dismissed it? We have a hard time believing in our abilities. This habit of not crediting ourselves for all we accomplish during the day just reinforces our instinct to deny our capabilities. I believe that starts in acknowledging all the things we do and seeing our own worth. We have to stop thinking that what we bring to the table is second rate. We are gifted in our capacity to manage all the details of not only our lives, but all the members of our families’ lives. We all have a natural talent (whether we are using it or not). Why not channel it into reaching a goal or a dream?
  2. Give yourself permission. The most beautiful thing happens when we become vulnerable and share our stories and struggles with each other. In this life, we sacrifice so much. A lot of times our circumstances force us to step up and take on more responsibilities for our families. And for some of us, that is easy to hide behind. But, are we living up to all of our potential? When you realize you have a dream in your heart, you have to give yourself permission to chase it.
  3. Stop seeking validation. As women this is especially hard. Being accepted is something we all struggle with, at all stages of life. We love to be seen and appreciated; it only feels natural to seek validation. But when you realize that other people’s opinions are none of your business and you are in charge of your own happiness, it will be easier to love yourself. You don’t need anyone’s permission to follow your dreams.

Loving yourself enough to take time for yourself is an important habit for everyone to learn. More important, and less practiced, is the habit of stepping up to become the leader in your own life. We give up too easily on the dreams and visions we have for our lives. Consistently stepping up to be the leader you were made to be will drastically change your life and possibly the lives of the next generation of women.

Summer Reading with Your MilKids

Summer is the season of uncertainty for military kids. Is my BFF packing up and heading out? Oh my gosh, are we moving? Where are we going; when do we leave? What if this new place we’re going doesn’t have the sushi place I like? What if their base pool doesn’t have a slide? Leave it to my kids to ask the hard questions.

Any parent — military or not — has their own concerns about summer vacation. Primarily, what in the world are the kids going to do all summer? We want them to fully enjoy those lazy days (or crazy days, if this is your PCS year) without losing all the healthy habits and academics they absorbed during the school year. Luckily, we have options. Chances are ― between city programs, school programs and your installation ― you have an array of summer camps to pick and choose from.  STEM camp, soccer camp, maybe both? While you’re likely to find something age-appropriate your military kids are into, those camps really add up: $100 this week for volleyball camp, $140 the following week for baseball, and don’t forget to factor in swim lessons and the family vacation if you strike summer gold and get to travel. If you have more than one kid to fund, you’re probably thinking about putting in your own application for a summer job at the pool.

Take a little advice from me: exhaust all the free options you can find this summer. Your installation is full of them (for example, the base pool). Before you settle in poolside though, swing into your installation’s MWR library where you’ll  find a snazzy flyer announcing the annual Department of Defense-MWR Summer Reading Program. The program is world-wide and incentivizes summer reading for ALL ages – yep, you too, you lucky MilKid parent! And cha-ching – the participation fees are paid in full for your entire family – hey, that vacation may be possible after all.  Here’s the gist:

  1. Register online by clicking your installation name and following the instructions.
  2. Log your reading.
  3. Scoot into your installation library to claim your prizes when your kids (and you) reach milestones.

Start and end dates vary slightly by installation, but all kick off in June. Check with your MWR Library now so you can start logging day one. The books you log don’t necessarily have to come from your installation library, if there’s a library closer to you or if you have a bookshelf full of enticing titles you’ve been meaning to read. And for those book-loving families living in remote locations, MWR didn’t forget about you, there’s a virtual program already paid for just waiting for you.

This will be our family’s third year participating in the Summer Reading Program, and we’ve already been snooping around our base library for information. Our kids — an incoming third grader who loves funny novels, and an incoming first grader who can read on her own for the first summer — are itching to get started. In past years, we’ve earned growth charts, cool pens, highlighters, backpacks, tote bags, t-shirts and stuffed animals. Prizes are age-specific, so don’t worry about your toy-loving 7-year-old getting a tote bag; that’s mama’s prize.

Reading truly is the one-size-fits-all summer activity. Read outdoors in the park or poolside, read in the car or the plane. Read when you’re visiting the grandma who doesn’t have TV. Read inside when there’s summer thunder happening or when it’s so hot that you break a sweat just walking to the car. It’s universal, portable, and it keeps the rust off of all the learning that happened during the school year. And, if you have reluctant readers who would rather be doing something “more fun” or “cooler” with their care-free summer days, just dangle the possibility of earning those sweet prizes (and a little friendly competition with the other participants in the family).

So don’t waste a minute, get registered and get logging!

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