Ranger School is tough. At a minimum, it’s 62 days long – with no communication and no true end date. When my husband first started Ranger School, there were 360 other students who started with him. Of the 360 to start, he was one of 180 to graduate and one of 90 to make it straight through. It goes without saying I am unbelievably proud of his accomplishment, determination and sacrifice.
When my husband left, I was eight weeks pregnant with our first child. Not being able to share all the doctor appointments, sonograms or any part of the crazy “firsts” added to the sadness of the goodbye. The silver lining of the initial drop-off is knowing that regardless of a pass or fail in Darby Phase, everyone gets an eight- to 10-hour pass after. This pass allows Ranger students to replenish supplies, spend a few minutes with any family who traveled to Fort Benning, and fill their bellies with their favorite meal. For some, this pass is exciting, because the next day they will head to Mountains Phase. For other students, they will go back to the barracks and try Darby again in hopes of getting their “go” the next time. These eight hours were the quickest my husband and I have ever spent together, but I was so thankful for them. We spent the morning at our favorite diner in Columbus, picked up a few supplies, and spent the afternoon watching a movie and catching up on what the last four weeks looked like for the both of us. I sent him off to Mountains with more letters and the promise that whenever he saw me again, the baby bump would be bigger.
For us, the Mountains and Florida phases of Ranger School provided almost no communication. The isolation is difficult, but “no news is good news.” The Ranger School Support Group class pages on social media did an incredible job at posting updates of what Ranger students were working on, providing prayer chains and answering any questions. Snail mail isn’t a perfect science, especially in Ranger School, and good old-fashioned letters are the most reliable communication families have. I took full advantage of this opportunity to keep my husband up to date on what was going on in the “real world” and what fun new milestones our little baby had reached.
After each phase, Ranger students usually have the chance to call home to let family know if they got their “go” or not. These calls start after tasks are done. If you’re lucky enough to get a call, be prepared to have just a moment or two to hear any updates from your Ranger student, provide some words of encouragement, and send them on their way. When I got my Mountains call and learned Chris would be moving on to the last phase, I used the next few minutes to open our gender reveal envelope I had received a week earlier. We didn’t have confetti cannons, pink or blue cupcakes, or a viral YouTube video, but a call on the pay phone in the mountains of northeast Georgia was all we needed to celebrate the news that we were expecting a girl. It was exactly the kind of motivation and excitement we both needed to push through the last phase and give us something to look forward to when all was said and done.
Less than 1% of the population of the U.S. serves in the military. Of that, 1% of the military wears a Ranger tab on their shoulder. It is an incredible feat and distinction that portrays the abilities of the soldier who bears it. After 62 long days, I attended my husband and his peers’ Ranger School graduation. The time culminated with a Rangers in Action demonstration, and finally the pinning ceremony. Pinning on that black and yellow tab is the light at the end of the tunnel everyone waits for.