“The Ranger is not for the weak or fainthearted” (United States Army Infantry School). This is a simple yet unambiguous description of rangers. Along this strong description is the solid distinction given to these elite soldiers who now wear the tan beret.
The history of the American Ranger is a long and colorful saga of courage, daring and outstanding leadership. It is a story of men whose skills in the art of fighting have seldom been surpassed (United States Army Infantry School III-1). These men have made vital contributions to several operations that have made its mark in the global history. They have fought with valor and selfless dedication to the Operation Eagle Claw (1980), Operation Urgent Fury on Grenada (1983), Operation Just Cause (1989), Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield (1991), Operation Gothic Serpent (1993), Operation Restore Hope (1993), and Iraq War (2003). Throughout these dangerous missions, the heart of a ranger has remained tough. This is why the ranger so deserves the tan beret.
A hat isn’t just a hat in the Army. When the 75th Ranger Regiment decided to unite the service by compelling all soldiers to wear the black beret, it decided to maintain distinct as elite soldiers with a color change – they’re going with tan. Col. P.K. Keen, regimental commander, especially mentioned that “Rangers have never been measured by what they have worn in peace or combat, but by commitment, dedication, physical and mental toughness, and willingness to lead the way – anywhere, anytime. The beret has become our most visible symbol – it will remain so.”
In the United States, the beret has become a symbol of excellence of its specialty units. HQDA policy from 1973 through 1979 permitted local commanders to encourage morale-enhancing distinctions, and Armor and Armored Cavalry personnel wore black berets as distinctive headgear. The decision made by the regiment to compel all soldiers to wear the black beret initially received opposing views from the Rangers while receiving nods from ordinary soldiers. The ruckus has divided an already divisive Army, said 2nd Lt. Mike Sparks (Jontz 5). Retired Major Richard G. Jones’ initial reaction was one of anger and disappointment. “The 75th Ranger Regiment and Vietnam era who maintained the high standards and qualities demanded of those who wear the Ranger Tab had struggled for too long to be allowed to wear the beret to have it now worn by just any soldier.” But then he reflected that he had elevated the black beret to a place of virtual idolatry and in so doing he was missing the fact that the beret is just a symbol which points to the reality that Rangers are the elite of the Army. As such it is the Ranger’s responsibility to do as the motto says, “lead the way.” He added, “We must work towards unifying the whole Army, encouraging all soldiers to strive to be as we are, The Best. Assisting at all levels of command so that each and every soldier accepts that fact that he or she is absolutely essential to the accomplishment of the Army’s mission. If the black beet can contribute to the unification of the Army, then – Rangers Lead the Way.”(CSA Sends 5). Jontz (4) reported that Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shensiki said, “The Ranger tan beret will symbolize their new challenges in the 21st century – whatever they are, the Rangers will continue to lead the way.”
The unique tan color is a collection of various representations Col. P.K. Keen, 11th Colonel of the Regiment so comprehensibly explained the Ranger Tan Beret through the Ranger Tan Beret Statement:
The Tan color of the New Ranger Beret reinvigorates the historical and spiritual linkage throughout the history of American Ranger. It is the color of the buckskin uniforms and animal skin hats of Roger’s Rangers, the first significant Ranger unit to fight on the American continent, and the genesis of the American Ranger lineage. Tan is the one universal and unifying color that transcends all Ranger Operations. It reflects the Butternut uniforms of Mosby’s Rangers during the American Civil War. It is reminiscent of the numerous beach assaults in the European Theater and the jungle fighting in the Pacific Theaters of World War II, where Rangers and Marauders spearheaded victory. It represents the khaki uniform worn by our Korean and Vietnam War era Rangers and the color of the sand of Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Mogadishu, where modern day Rangers lead the way as they fought and, at times, valiantly died accomplishing the Ranger mission. Tan rekindles the legacy of Rangers from all eras and exemplifies the unique skills and special capabilities required of past, present, and future Rangers.
Such is the highest degree of distinction in the U.S. Army of which I came to ponder on why I so deserve the Ranger Tan Beret. One of the requirements of achieving the Tan Beret is to graduate in the Ranger Indoctrination Program.
The Ranger Indoctrination Program is designed to prepare us soldiers who are considered fresh recruits for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment. While on the program, I faced the kinds of physical and mental challenges. I passed the requirements set which were as follows:
a) 60% Army Physical Fitness Test;
b) 5-mile run at no slower than 8 minutes per mile;
c) Successful completion of Combat Water Survival Test;
d) Must complete 2 or 3 road marches, one of which must be a 10-mile road march; and
e) 70% on all exams.
At 3 a.m., we were required to complete a 12-mile road march carrying with me my weapon and 35-pound rucksack in three hours. Throughout the four week course, we were tested on various physical and mental tasks which included the following:
ü Daily Physical Training
ü Ranger History Test
ü Map reading
ü Airborne Operation
ü Day and night land navigation
ü 5-mile run
ü Combative and Knot training
ü Combat water survival test
ü 6, 8, and 10-mile road marches
ü Driver training
ü Fast rope training
ü Combat lifesaver certification
In the program, my mind and body were pushed to the limits as I learned the skills necessary to engage in close combat and direct-fire battles.
I completed the 5-mile run in less than 40 minutes. I scored 70% or better in each event of the Army Physical Fitness Test, the Ranger First response exam and a critical skills test. The test covered the areas of training, such as land navigation, marksmanship and the 12-page “blue-book” of Ranger standards, Army policy and Ranger history.
In combat water survival test, I performed underwater equipment removal, a 15-meter swim and a “blind drop” wherein I fell backwards and blindfolded into the water.
The class began with over more than 200 students; only half of us graduated. The others quit with the decision that they did not want to be there – after experiencing sprained ankles and broken bones.
Heat was a major safety issue in all the intense training. I experienced drinking a full canteen of water at one time. This was called “forced hydration.”
During the winter months, heating tents were used to prevent cold weather injuries.
I ate enough of the healthier foods provided, instead of the candy, crackers, and junk foods.
I get a minimum of six hours of sleep on regular training nights, so that I was well-rested and alert for the next day’s training. On nights before high-risk training, such as airborne jumps, I made sure I got 8 hours of sleep.
Frail and human as I am, no matter how I follow the safety measures, I experienced minor injuries along the way. Thanks to the Ranger buddies who went everywhere with me and my comrades who served as another set of eyes and brains.
Anyone would ask why I wanted to go through something so tough? I wanted to be a part of the 75th Ranger Regiment in order to serve my country. If this is what it takes to be, I would be very willing to do if only to find meaning in what I’m doing. It was a humbling experience that I had and it helped make me look further into myself, finding fears, strength, and above all pride.
The Ranger is certainly not for the weak or fainthearted. The RANGER creed is already embedded in my heart and mind. The standing orders of the Rogers Rangers are now so explicitly part of my life as an elite soldier. The knowledge and skills that I’ve learned in the training now form my being. My every thought and every action are chiseled to the highest standard expected of the elite soldier that I am.
Admittedly, other people may think that the Ranger Tan Beret is a virtual idolatry. Then again, my intellect does not allow me to hold such misconception. Wearing the Tan Beret means to me in a way that no one else can fathom.
I have undergone what it takes to be a part of the 75th Ranger Regiment under the Ranger Indoctrination Program. I am now about to be a part of the elite of the Army. My every move echoes the disciplines of an Army Ranger. I am now ready to wear the Tan Beret.