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THE COVETED BLACK AND GOLD - Endorsements & Reviews


Colonel Ralph Puckett, USA (Ret)

Honorary Colonel of the 75th Ranger Regiment


John Lock's The Coveted Black and Gold: A Daily Journey Through The US Army Ranger School Experience will cause every Ranger graduate to say, "Yes, I remember that! That's the way it was!" As he reminisces, he'll also exclaim to himself, "I'm glad I did it but I'll never do it again!" Lock's attention-riveting account is based on the contraband daily log that he kept without being detected by the ever present RI (Ranger Instructor).  That Lock succeeded is a tribute to his perseverance and adroitness in avoiding detection.   He has achieved in writing what may be acclaimed as the seminal work on the Ranger Training Program at the Infantry School.  By so doing he has explained clearly that a Ranger is a soldier with a special attitude—self-assured, determined, demanding of himself and of those with whom he soldiers, a person for whom only the best is acceptable, a person who strives to be all that he can be.


Lock's vivid description of the Ranger Course explains why it is the most physically, mentally, and psychologically demanding training provided in the U.S. Army. The purpose of this extremely grueling regimen is to develop combat skills of carefully selected and prepared officers and enlisted men. They are required to perform effectively as small unit leaders in a realistic tactical environment under the physical and mental stress approaching that of ground combat. They develop individual combat skills and abilities through the application of leadership principles. Tactical exercises also increase the Ranger trainee's capability to plan and conduct dismounted infantry, airborne, airmobile, and amphibious independent squad and platoon-size operations. Graduates return to their units with the never-ending mission of sharing their knowledge and skills to build a better, more combat-ready Army. Receiving the Tab is only the beginning; a Ranger is expected to earn that Tab every day of his life.


While a Cadet at West Point, John Lock entered the Ranger Course in the summer of 1980 with 160 other aspirants for the coveted "Ranger Black and Gold." At graduation, 59 days later, there were only 102 standing tall, waiting to receive their Tab. Of those 102, only 72 (45%) were part of the original class. For the graduates, the previous fifty-nine days had been pure, unmitigated hell. The RIs were never satisfied; they always demanded a higher level of performance. They never missed the opportunity afforded by a trainee's mistake to inject a valuable lesson. They


"rewarded" each lapse in security, tactics, planning or implementation with an enemy ambush or attack at unexpected times and places.  These never-ending surprises stressed that, in combat, mistakes cost lives.  Extreme heat, fatigue, sleep and food deprivation, insects, leeches, snakes, "wait-a-minute" vines, and what seemed like unceasing rain added to the trainee's misery and were lessons in themselves.  Lock's daily recitation of these vicissitudes are fascinating and will be interesting to anyone who enjoys reading about challenge and man's ability to overcome what may seem insurmountable.  Each day's account begins with an appropriate quote from military history; these add immeasurably to the interest.


Through this purgatory, Ranger trainee John Lock maintains his perspective and asks the reader to "overlook my warped personality and perverted sense of humor." He makes jokes about the most depressing circumstances as a hedge against dropping into a deep trough of self-defeating low morale.  Despite his bizarre, self-deprecating sense of humor, he is constantly aware of the potentially deadly consequences of mistakes in combat.  He criticizes himself harshly for the mistakes that he makes without becoming depressed.  His mental toughness keeps him going and, as it is for every trainee, is the primary determinant of whether he graduates.


Lock brings to the reader's attention the stark reality of the demands of Ranger training by indicating each day in his log the number of hours of sleep (the average is three each day) and the meals missed.  Even recounting the meals missed does not indicate accurately the caloric deficiency because the "meal" received may have been only a modicum of food.  But to a Ranger, any meal is a banquet!


As Lock expresses so well in "Final Thoughts," Ranger training provides a unique opportunity for a person to learn about himself.  "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 training is the most valuable preparatory training for combat that our Army provides.  It is not only the best for the leader who has completed the course but also for the soldiers he leads.  Ranger graduates set the standard for our Army.  By continuing such tough, realistic training, Rangers will continue to "Lead the Way!" They provide the hard core who set and maintain standards in training and who lead those soldiers in what is terrifying, brutal, deadly ground combat.





Lieutenant Colonel Lock has written a fascinating and informative work on the most elite of the Army’s troops and tells us what it takes to earn the coveted Black and Gold Ranger Tab. A good read for any student of the warrior ethic.

Colin Powell,

General, U.S. Army (Retired)



JD Lock captures within The Coveted Black and Gold the essence of the best course in the world to prepare a man to fight and win in sustained close combat. No other course I know of, including the SEAL’s premier BUDS program, prepares a man psychologically for the rigors of infantry combat. I know that I personally must have faced greater gut checks in training and combat, but nothing seems to match the seemingly endless challenges faced by my Ranger buddies and me during January patrols in the mountains of north Georgia or in the freezing waters during February in the Florida swamps. I thank God I had this Ranger School benchmark early because it served me well during the following 34 years and even into retirement. Everything seems to pale in comparison to those stark, uncompromising Ranger school tasks we had to accomplish despite the difficulties. The mission always came first and could never be compromised. Rangers, do in fact, Lead the Way!”


Wayne A. Downing,

General, U.S. Army (Retired)

Third Colonel of the Regiment and former CINC, U.S. Special Operations Command



The U.S. Army Ranger School is a nine-week challenge to a man’s self-confidence, physical fitness, and above all, his determination to prevail. It is a nine-week trip from hell, designed to cull out the mentally and physically weak and to make the survivors far more capable leaders. A nine week witches brew of misery; rain, mud, slime, snakes, chiggers, heat, cold, humidity, numbing fatigue, life or death situations, very little sleep or food, 70 pound rucksacks and Ranger Instructors in omnipresent wolf packs yapping, snapping and hounding the students day and night to drive out the weak. This book takes the reader vicariously through Ranger School. I have never been to Ranger School but I have always respected greatly the accomplishment of those who have. Lieutenant Colonel (then U.S.M.A. Cadet) John Lock’s diary gave me a comprehensive appreciation of what a Ranger graduate has accomplished. He spares none of the details. Carrying a hidden diary, he avoided being caught by the instructors as he scrawled daily entries. Remarkably objective, he captured it all; the hours of sleep each day (the average was 3); the meals missed; the rare humorous events; the sadness of seeing companions fail because of their own shortcomings or the inaction or incompetence of others in a patrol they were leading; the personal heroism of men in actual life-threatening situations. So far as I know Lock’s diary is the only day-to-day student chronology of the great stress and pressure on an aspiring Ranger to perform 100 percent correctly while being physically miserable, worn out and severely undernourished. I highly recommend this book to those who would like to know more about Army Rangers. And to those who are about to go into Ranger School, it will provide an excellent “recon.”


Harold G. Moore

Lt. General, U.S. Army (Retired)

Co-author of the New York Times Best Seller

We Were Soldiers Once…and Young



A must read to understand the Ranger community and for those aspiring to become RANGER QUALIFIED—the right of passage for leaders who can be depended on when the going gets tough. The coveted BLACK and GOLD establishes a standard for setting the example, leading the way and to live by for the rest of your life.


Dave Grange

Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Retired)

7th Colonel of the Regiment



Professional soldier and West Point graduate John Lock takes you into the heart of America’s most intense military experience, United States Army Ranger School. Here is Ranger training up close and personal, so real that you feel the pain, taste the sweat, and learn just what it takes to wear The Coveted Black and Gold.


Daniel P. Bolger

Author of Savage Peace



In prose as spare and sharp as a soldier’s bayonet, John Lock shows what young men of character can and will endure in pursuit of a dream to become the best.


Ed Ruggero

Author of 38 North Yankee



The author is a wonderful writer who has captured the Ranger course experience like no other I have read. If published in its present form, it would likely do well as preparatory reading for those who are about to go to Ranger school and for those who are its graduates, an insightful narrative describing the challenges they faced.


Manuscript Review Comments AUSA

20 July 2000






5.0 out of 5 stars

Should Be a Ranger School Prerequisite, January 13, 2013

By Dave

Although not recently written, this book was an excellent read and very informative. Throughout the book the author gives a play by play of the daily events encountered on his way to earning his Tab. Seriously, the content can make you anxious as you read the constant hell endured. Plenty to think about and learn from before attending. Highly recommended. 



5.0 out of 5 stars

Outstanding!!!!!!, July 18, 2011

By Ranger8-88

Well written and documented. Great account for anyone interested in going to Ranger Course. Personally had a hard time remembering my personal experiences through the course. Doesn't include the desert portion that I had when I went through. Bought the book to remember myself and to help a student interested in going into the now R.A.S.P. Process that they call it now. RIP was only about 3 weeks long in 1988 when I went through. I understand now that it is 8 weeks and called RASP. Recommend for those that wish to remember or help someone to get an idea to prepare for Ranger School. If that is even really possible. RLTW 2nd Bn 75th Ranger Regiment.



4.0 out of 5 stars

a little dated, but great information, March 18, 2011

By sal

I bought this book as I am intending to attend Ranger school myself soon. The day by day is great at letting you know how long and grueling it is, as well as offering a few good tidbits of advice along the way. Very motivational, hands down Ranger School seems to be one of the toughest military schools available but, reading this and the sense of accomplishment along the way only helped to motivate me even more in receiving the Ranger Tab.

Recommend this to anyone considering Ranger School as well as anyone that just has a passing interest in our militaries best.



5.0 out of 5 stars

Ranger Class 1-74, February 17, 2011

By jack j. laurie (DAYTON, NJ, US)

If you have been to Ranger School this is a must read, as it brings back soooo many memories, good and bad. If you are thinking about attending Ranger School - you better read this and understand that on some days it is a lot worse than the book describes. In the US Militaries there are only two organizations that carry with it the distinction of "There are no Ex....." One being the Marine Corps, there are no Ex-Marines. There are no Ex-Rangers, you are, or you are not. Ranger School is a Badge of Honor that you will carry for the rest of your life.

Jack J. Laurie, Ranger Class 1-74.



5.0 out of 5 stars

Very informative, March 22, 2009

By submariner in Arizona

Our son is in Ranger school as we speak. He is a West Point Graduate and an infantry officer with 8 years to serve. While the book was dated it has been invaluable for us to follow essentially day by day the experiences our son is enduring. Each day we read the entry corresponding to our son's ranger training day. For me, that is the example of a book which has stood the test of time. Written in 1980 and useful in 2009. Well done.



5.0 out of 5 stars

The Ultimate Survivor "Game", October 27, 2008

By GoldFalconSix

Reading this book opened all the floodgates of memory of my own Ranger School class in the winter of 1970. I had forgotten so much of the physical punishment, of one C-ration a day while climbing the mountains and wading the swamps, of teeth-shattering snow and icy swamp water, of halucinating and sleeping on my feet, of dropping to 125 pounds on a 5-foot 10-inch frame. And more than the physical, there was the emotional and the mental toll. Heartbreakingly exhausting past exhaustion. There were times when the book invoked such vivid memories of misery that I really wanted to just put it down and walk away for awhile. What an outstanding book! I'm amazed that the author was able to pull off keeping the journal and his small Kodak cartridge camera through all the Ranger instructor equipment shake-down inspections. I'm also amazed at the consistency of his experiences and mine. People have asked me through the years, "What was Ranger School like?" I never could begin to find any words to do the experience justice. How do I describe the indescribable? Now, however, J.D. Lock has done just that. The next time I'm asked, I'll just hand them the book and answer, "Here. Read." Every Ranger or family of a Ranger should have this book. Rangers Lead The Way, Sir!



5.0 out of 5 stars

A Good Read, July 3, 2008

By CBPNUT (Columbus, GA USA)

I have several friends who are Rangers, since they are known to be 'the best of the best' I wanted to see what it took to earn that (trust me, THEY DO) and what is expected of them. Plus these guys can't often talk a lot about what they do, so I figured learning about what they train for may give insight. This book did all of that. It goes day by day and shows the learning process-including the intentional stresses added to force the most out of them in the worst conditions. Plus, he also gives good history/added info on the schooling and Rangers as a whole. If you like to learn more about the military mentality and what all goes into it, its a fun read. Rangers Lead The Way!!



3.0 out of 5 stars

REVIEW, March 8, 2008

By S. Morrison "Earl M" (Yorktown, VA)

This book was a pretty good account of the day in and day out trials of going through Ranger School. For those of you saying you want to become a Ranger, you need to know one thing, there is a huge difference between going to Ranger School and wearing the Tab after, and actually serving in a Ranger Battalion/Regiment. You should talk to people who served in those units.



5.0 out of 5 stars

EXCELLENT BOOK, May 13, 2007

By louis C. kreppert (Yorkville, IL United States)

I have a whole library of of this type book , since I was in the Airbourn-Rangers 1951-1954.



5.0 out of 5 stars

an eye opener, March 23, 2006

By Paul Yoon (Carmel, Indiana)

This book is amazing because it contains his day to day activities. I, too, want to become a Ranger and I've done lots of research about them, but I must admit that I didn't always know what he was talking about, I did understand the hardship and I could picture myself going through what he did, it makes me think that I have no chance of making it through. I found that I would try to picture myself in his shoes, seeing what I would have done in his situation, or keep in mind on the tips he talks about to maintain weight, etc. It kinda gives you a heads up on what kind of mental preparation you need to have. It seemed that this course was EXTREMELY difficult physically, however mentally preparing oneself was the message I was getting from the book. I also liked all the little trivia he put in the book at the end, telling you who was eligible to go to Ranger training, and the meaning of hooah. hahahaha. Although i wish he explained things more in detail, i understand why that wasn't possible. I just hope i can prepare myself enough to take on the crap they dish out at you.


4.0 out of 5 stars

Insightful, August 5, 2005

By Jesus Manuel Loya

I personally want to become a ranger when I join the army, and this book was an eye opener yet also inspirational. It shows the commitment and self motivation required for Ranger School. This book is a good buy.

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