The training areas near Fort Bliss, Texas can be unforgiving. There is no shade and summer temperatures creep into the hundreds regularly. It's the perfect place to see what Soldiers are made of – if they have what it takes to go to the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“Ranger School is hard, it's got an incredibly high washout rate, it's incredibly demanding,” said Capt. Daniel Plumb, commander, Iron Training Detachment, 1st Armored Division. “We give them the tools to mentally, physically prepare for Ranger school.”
Cadet Jessica Soto, United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., runs back to her position followed by other cadets after assisting in loading a simulated casualty for medevac during the Fort Bliss Pre-Ranger Course near Fort Bliss, Texas June 14, 2016. (Photo by Abigail Waldrop, Fort Bliss Public Affairs)
The Pre-Ranger Course instructors here are certified Ranger instructors and the curriculum is intense. The three-week course gets Soldiers ready for the school's mental and physical challenges. This iteration, cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, were invited to participate while they were here for their three-week Cadet Troop Leader Training.
“The purpose of their summer training is usually to shadow a lieutenant and that can be accomplished in a lot of different ways. It can be accomplished in the motor pool, or like what just happened here, which is where they shadowed lieutenants out in the Pre-Ranger program,” Plumb said. “I think they learned more about combat and maneuver ... what it's like to be a private, what it's like to be a leader in a stressful environment.”
Four cadets volunteered and were dropped in on the course from June 14 through 17, 2016. Cadet Kevin Talty, a math and Portuguese major and rising junior, was looking to keep a positive mindset as the week began.
“I expect it to be a challenge, a very, very hard challenge and that I learn a lot and I push myself,” Talty said.
The cadets attended the final week of the course, so they didn't have to complete the Ranger Assessment Phase or advanced land navigation, but they went right in to the field for three days of grueling combat patrols in extreme conditions.
“As soon as they arrived they were put right to work,” said Sgt. 1st Class Reag Wood, noncommissioned officer in charge, Fort Bliss Pre-Ranger course. “We literally went from our headquarters to our base camp and within 30 minutes they were inserted in a squad and stepping off on a combat patrol.”
Eight Pre-Ranger students and the four cadets trekked miles in the hills and desert of the Fort Bliss training area conducting operations from ambushes, to reconnaissance, to conducting a medevac for a simulated casualty.
“It really shows the character on their part, as volunteers for something this tough. They were told the rigors and they still volunteered for it and did an exceptional job,” Wood said.
The Pre-Ranger students were graded in their leadership roles on the five principles of patrolling: planning, reconnaissance, security, control and common sense. While the cadets weren't graded, Cadet Jessica Soto, a rising senior and Spanish major from El Paso, said she wanted to support those who hoped to receive a recommendation for Ranger School. She expected the course to be challenging and wasn't disappointed.
“It's amazing, it's a killer on your body, on your mind, because you're running on one hour of sleep, minimal food and water and you're still getting a crazy amount of work done,” Soto said.
The El Paso native said the experience allowed her to get a taste of the “real Army” and feels fortunate for the opportunity.
“It was awesome to get this level of training at such an early stage in our career,” Soto said.
Talty said he learned a lot in the short time they were in the field.
“This is how the light infantry unit would conduct an ambush, this is how they would conduct reconnaissance,” Talty said. “Getting first-hand experience that I cannot otherwise get at this level is very important to my development.”
This cycle of the Pre-Ranger course started with about 40 Soldiers. Eight finished and six received recommendations to attend the school at Fort Benning. Plumb said he hopes more cadets or Reserve Officers Training Corps students attend the course in the future.
By Abigail Waldrop, Fort Bliss Public Affairs
Provided through DVIDS
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