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Soldiers attending Ranger School learn additional leadership, and small unit technical and tactical skills, in a physically and mentally demanding combat-stimulated environment.
Originally published on May 29, 2015 5:50 am At Georgia's Fort Benning, female soldiers are fighting a two-month battle. July 24, 2014 by Accepted Ben Faw, a combat veteran and former Army Captain, shares his thoughts on how prior members of the military can use their unique skill sets to battle the dangerously high young-veteran unemployment rate of 21.4%.
Pinning the 2nd Lieutenant bar on my beret and shoulders as a junior Army officer following graduation from West Point was an incredible moment.
While the peer from the private sector might know Excel modeling and financial statements far better than a veteran, the self-discipline practiced in the military is rarely ingrained as deeply in people from other backgrounds. Those early morning physical training sessions five days a week in the military were not a waste.
As you can see in the interactive image, veterans tend to take jobs all over the country after business school.
While the functional training received in the military is not always transferable to the private sector, the leadership skills are.
Army Soldiers conduct the Darby Mile buddy run and an obstacle course during the first gender-integrated Ranger Course at Fort Benning, Ga. However, I already knew any true respect from my subordinates would be earned through actions and care for their needs, not through the rank shown on my uniform. Malcolm Gladwell writes about the 10,000 hours it takes to become an expert in something; after the first few years of service, many veterans have already completed the 10,000 hours in self-discipline training. Maintaining this fitness routine post-military provides more than just a healthy feeling; recent research indicates it may lead to higher wages as well. As a freshman at West Point, I witnessed my first Platoon Sergeant earn incredible respect by participating alongside the unit in every event, even when he had no obligation to do so. They're fighting their way through the Army's notoriously hard Ranger School, trying to make history by becoming the first women to graduate from it.
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” In my own case, helping my Soldiers clean bathrooms when they were exhausted from the sweltering heat in Iraq earned more respect than any rank or position ever would. I can still clearly remember an occasion when I was late in Basic Officer Training, and I was the patrol leader for the mission! Even if your health and wellness never directly impacts wages, the self-discipline and work ethic can shine through to potential employers in a positive way. While it can be neat to live in an energetic city, if you dislike the job itself or the company culture, it is not the right choice for you.
In that same training cycle, another unit leader constantly did the minimum required and lost credibility.
It's one of several Pentagon experiments to see how best to move women into ground combat roles. Post military, my experiences in private companies and academic environments have shown this same principle at work. That terrible feeling in my stomach after my commander woke me up late at 5AM is something I will never let happen again. Practicing healthy living can also help reduce stress and build the resilience and stamina needed for the challenges of the future. Instead, focus on finding something that you love, regardless of location, and you will always do your best work. When I was eventually given responsibility for subordinates, I made sure I set the example through participation and devotion to duty.
Serving others as a leader has translated into far more credibility and respect than flaunting position, rank, or past accomplishments. With long winding and ambiguous career paths for many in today’s workforce, every reasonable way to reduce stress is useful! In one of my first civilian jobs at Tesla Motors, learning by following again helped me build the skills to lead that I would eventually use when I earned more responsibility within the company. With sharp-tongued instructors looking on, Ranger School students rocket down a zip-line from a 70-foot tower. Whether you are leading a military unit into harm’s way or guiding a team though the due diligence process for an investment, many of the same skills apply: communicating and listening to others, leading by example, and treating all parties with respect. These skills were essential in the military, and they are still incredibly important in the private sector.
The instructors are trying to see who might struggle with heights and water because later the class moves into the mountains and then to coastal Florida.


Tracy Ross is one of 28 women observers who the Army brought in to help evaluate the training.
By this point nearly a quarter of the 400 students have washed out for good, including three of the 19 women.
Ranger school is voluntary, but vitally important training for anyone who aspires to be an infantry leader.
About 90 percent of the Army's senior infantry officers wear the coveted, arch-shaped Ranger Tab. Two years ago, the Defense Department lifted the ban on women serving in small ground combat units. Now each service branch has until the end of the year to figure out how to fit women into those jobs, or explain why it can't.
They brand black plastic daggers; an instructor with a bullhorn coaches them on knife fighting. A female soldier a little more than 5-feet-tall with a blank expression faces a man, who is 6-feet-tall. After the knife practice, instructors urge the students to crawl, jog and lunge in a circle yelling, and at times hoisting each other aloft for the buddy carry. The instructors are starting a process that Ranger School is famous for: Pushing students to their physical and mental limits for weeks on end.
Most who drop out of Ranger School do so in the first four days, which are built around a battery of must-pass basic physical fitness tests. They get about three and a half hours of sleep a day, and so little food that even men in great shape typically lose 15 to 20 pounds. By the final phase of the training — after the basic push-ups, sit-ups and zip-line, and after working on small unit tactics — the soldiers are sent to a Florida swamp, so exhausted that many are no longer sure what's real.
I don't think there is one Ranger student who can tell you they didn't have one time where they saw something that was not there," Pheanis says.
The problem is some guys take what their eyes see as the gospel." The decision to let women try Ranger school triggered an outcry from some retired and active-duty Rangers. Inevitably, they say the school's harsh standards will have to be lowered to accommodate the female troops. When asked about the idea of women as Rangers, he says: "I think it's fair to give the opportunity to people who are up for the challenge. There are women in special operations who have been in positions of substantial danger who have been attached to Ranger units and even who have been killed in Ranger units in Afghanistan. So I think to deny them the same opportunity for training is probably not right." But Vickery says passing a training course — no matter how tough — isn't the same as leading a unit in combat. Half of the exercise is in darkness, and all of it is in heavy underbrush infested with several kinds of venomous snakes, fire ants and wild boars.
As Ross, the female observer, watches the soldiers trickle in from the woods, she says the women she's seeing aren't worried about whether they're making history. Male, female, it doesn't matter." The Army is gathering lots of data during the experiment, like how many women manage to crank out 49 push-ups in two minutes. But the Army thinks Ranger School will also reveal things that can't be measured, like how women will take on leadership roles under the stress of combat. She's filling her canteen at a water truck when another jogs past on the way to report in and pats her shoulder.
The remaining women who didn't initially pass the first major phase of the training, which focuses on small-unit operations, had to try again. Only about 25 percent of men who graduate from Ranger School make it without "recycling" at least one of the three phases. But each do-over adds more weeks of hunger and fatigue, making it increasingly difficult to pass.
Officials at Fort Benning are expected to release an update on the women's status as soon as this week.Copyright 2015 WUNC-FM. It's a test that thousands of men before them have failed, and it's one of several Pentagon experiments to see how to best move women into ground combat roles.
They rocket down into a pond so hard, they can dislocate an arm or leg if they hit the water wrong. PRICE: First Lieutenant Tracy Ross is one of 28 women observers who the Army brought in to help evaluate the training. The Army wouldn't let journalists talk to the students, but Ross knows what they're going through.


So actually going through the events gives us an idea of, you know, how it's going to be like, so we can provide feedback. By this point, though, nearly a quarter of the 400 students have washed out for good, including three of the 19 women.
Ranger School is vitally important training for anyone who aspires to be an infantry leader.
About 90 percent of the Army's senior infantry officers were the coveted, arch-shaped Ranger tab. COLONEL WILLIAM BUTLER: Some folks argue that Ranger School is the best leadership school in the world, and I won't argue that. MAJOR JOHN VICKERY: For enlisted personnel that are Ranger-qualified, a tremendous amount of credibility. Now each service branch has until the end of the year to figure out how to fit women into those jobs or say why it can't.
PRICE: Ranger School is famous for pushing students to their physical and mental limits for weeks on end.
PRICE: Most who drop out of Ranger school do so in the first 4 days - days built around a battery of must-pass fitness tests. The first week's ordeal culminates with a 12-mile march under heavy packs that has to be finished in three hours. PRICE: Ranger training replicates the pressures of combat, and it's kind of a human pressure cooker. SERGEANT FIRST CLASS TRAVIS PHEANIS: We, you know, yell at them to create that stress that they're going to have in combat or whatever because nobody has a quiet conversation in combat. PRICE: They get about three and a half hours of sleep a day and so little food that even men in great shape typically lose 15 to 20 pounds. UNIDENTIFIED MAN #9: Do you know how many God-fearing Americans want to be walking across that log?
PRICE: But the final phase of the training, after the basic push-ups and sit-ups and the zip line, after working on small unit tactics, after learning to fight in the mountains, the soldiers are sent to a Florida swamp so exhausted that many are no longer sure what's real.
I don't think there's one Ranger student that can tell you they didn't have one time where he saw something that was not there. I watched guys go up an escalator in the middle of the swamp, but then I blinked four times and laughed it off.
PRICE: The decision to let women try Ranger School triggered an outcry from critics, including retired and active-duty Rangers. Some complain women are taking hard-to-get student slots that should go to men, and they say the school's harsh standards would have to be lowered to accommodate female troops.
I think - I think it's fair to give the opportunity to people who are up for the challenge. There are women in special operations who have been in positions of substantial danger, who have been attached to Ranger units and even who have been killed in Ranger units in Afghanistan. PRICE: But Major Vickery says passing a training course, no matter how tough, isn't the same as leading a unit in combat. VICKERY: Putting a woman in a small outpost in Afghanistan with 30 males, I think, may pose some significant challenges that the Army would really have to work through to make sure that that's OK.
PRICE: The Army is gathering lots of data during the experiment, like how many women managed to crank out 49 push-ups in two minutes. But the Army thinks Ranger School will also reveal things that can't be measured, like how women will take on leadership roles under the stress of combat, which Ranger School tries to simulate.
PRICE: Three hundred students pair off in a giant dirt and woodchip circle known as the pit. A female soldier a little more than five feet tall, her expression blank, faces a six-foot man. After the knife practice, instructors urge the students to crawl, jog and lunge in a circle, yelling. Of the 19 women who started the course, eight are still in - a dropout rate not too different from the men's.
CORNISH: That story is part of our project Back at Base, NPR's collaboration with seven member stations from around the country.



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