THE COVETED BLACK AND GOLD - Excerpt
During Ranger training, you have learned the most valuable lesson that anyone ever learns. You know that you can go just as far as your guts and your brains will take you. You’ve learned some other lessons. You know that after Ranger training, every day is a holiday and every meal is a banquet! You also know that you should never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, never stay awake when you can go to sleep, and never pass up the opportunity to get a bite to eat, take a drink of water, or go to the bathroom!
COL(Ret) Ralph Puckett, 24 February 1995
Graduation Comments to Ranger Class 3-95
Looking back over the daily entries of sleep and meals, one will find that I averaged 3 hours of sleep and 2 meals per day throughout the 59- day period. Quite obviously, this lack of sleep and food took its toll and recovery from this journey was a challenge in and of itself. My first days home found me rotating between the bed, kitchen, and bathroom on a routine basis, and my family’s food budget took a significant hit. For my first meal at home, I consumed 18 slices of French toast for breakfast—only stopping at that number because my mother ran out of bread.
Physical recovery, especially in terms of body mass and endurance, took months to accomplish. There was one area, in particular, that took the greatest beating of all—my feet. Full feeling to these modes of conveyance did not return until Thanksgiving, nearly four months after graduation.
Ranger School is a great and lasting experience, an experience that you will always remember and talk about. Months after my graduation from Ranger School, I invited one of my sponsors, a Ranger qualified field grade officer, to a dining-in at West Point. At our table in the cadet mess, sat another senior officer, who was also Ranger qualified. Both men were infantrymen and each was a veteran of at least two combat tours in Vietnam. What I found most amazing was the fact that they spent the majority of the dinner telling each other war stories, not of Vietnam, but of Ranger School! When I asked them why they were discussing war stories of Ranger School rather than Vietnam, they stated that Ranger School was the more difficult of the two. Now, not being a Vietnam Vet myself, I do not know whether to believe their claim that Ranger School was the more difficult of the two. I do believe, though, that it is safe to say that Ranger School will provide you a unique opportunity to learn things, both good and bad, about yourself and your classmates that will stay with you for a lifetime. The deprivations, adversity, exhaustion, and stress will quickly strip away any facade and reveal the true core of any man. In the process, it will assist your transformation into a warrior and leader of combat soldiers. It is an experience and accomplishment that no one can take from you.
Ranger School is just the beginning for those with the true warrior spirit. It is tough. It is difficult. It is excruciatingly demanding. It is “just a long continuous suck” exclaim graduates. In the end, it must be all these for today’s modern…and unconventional battlefield…is even more unforgiving than those previously faced.
On the nation’s behalf, Rangers are America’s “killers”…“attack dogs for democracy”…trained to violate that most sacred of human sanctions…and one of God’s Ten Commandments…“Though shall not kill.” U.S. Army Rangers are America’s premier direct-fire combat assault troops. A Ranger graduate is trained to enter the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods, to fight face to face with the best, most unconventional fighters…and win. As the Battle of Bakara Market in Mogadishu on 3 October 1993 clearly demonstrated, those neighborhoods are festering swamps of unfettered, brutal, chaotic, uncivilized, no quarter given firefights. Only the most hardened and well trained have the best probability of surviving…physically as well as emotionally. In the end, Ranger School saves lives and achieves national, strategic goals.
In my introduction to this book, I mention “Ranger School is a structured series of events that earns one the right and privilege to be awarded the Ranger Tab, to be worn with pride on the left shoulder of a soldier’s uniform.” Unfortunately, there are those who believe that the earning of the Tab is an end in itself, another ‘check the block’ item on the way to higher rank. As I was so rightly reminded by COL (Ret) Ralph Puckett in a letter to me, “the ultimate objective of Ranger School is a much more highly skilled close ground combat leader” who will “earn the Tab every day.” The Coveted Black and Gold is not the ‘end’ state for the professional soldier; it is the beginning! In closing, this journal took on a life form of its own as I revised it. While this is only one man’s story, I believe it speaks for itself in reference to the Ranger School experience. The only bit of advice I would offer is the following:
It is my opinion that the intent of the Ranger Course is to evaluate, not teach, leadership. The small unit tactics and associated stresses and deprivations are merely the vehicle by which the RIs evaluate one’s leadership abilities. If you act forcefully, act aggressively, and take charge, there is a high degree of probability that you will pass. Make the Creed part of who you are and never lose sight of the Coveted Black and Gold. You can be part of this elite group, also, if you want it badly enough.
GOOD LUCK, RANGER.