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!