By Robert Bruce
“As a matter of policy, we do not discuss the movement, location or specific combat or training missions of special operations forces. I can tell you that 75th Ranger Regiment personnel are deployed in support of the Global War on Terror or in support of training in multiple locations around the world at any given time.” Captain Dan Ferris, Commanding Officer, Company C, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
Captain Ferris’ cautious answer to our direct question is characteristic of the men and women in all components of United States Special Operations Command, and particularly for the 75th Ranger Regiment. They have a hard enough job to do without giving away any information that would be of value to freedom’s many enemies.
But these “quiet professionals” deserve recognition for their largely hidden but undeniably essential contributions to the Global War on Terror and appreciation from those of us who have the luxury of the protection they so ably and unselfishly provide.
So, what we have presented here is carefully crafted with OPSEC – operational security – at the forefront.
Our special thanks to Public Affairs and Media Relations personnel at US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) and 75th Ranger Regiment for their extraordinary assistance, patience and good humor through the whole process. Intensely proud of the units they represent and fiercely protective of their security, they trusted us to get the story right.
Profile of a Ranger Company
Details on the latest structure of Ranger formations are highly sensitive, but a useful background on these units prior to the terrorist attacks on America in 2001 is provided by open source information that is readily available to any internet user.
At that time a Ranger battalion was made up of three rifle companies, each comprised of a headquarters element, three rifle platoons, and a weapons platoon. Most of the Rangers in the rifle platoon’s three 9-man rifle squads were armed with the 5.56mm M16A2 rifle or M4A1 SOPMOD carbine. Two of these were grenadiers with a 40mm M203 grenade launcher clamped underneath their rifles and two others were Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) gunners, armed at the time with 5.56mm M249 belt guns. A 10-man medium machine gun squad rounded out the platoon, formidably armed with three 7.62mm M60s.
The weapons platoon contained a mortar section with two 60mm tubes and an anti-tank section of three 3-man teams for the incomparable 84mm Carl Gustav Ranger Anti-Armor Weapon System. It also had a sniper section consisting of three teams employing the highly capable bolt action 7.62mm M24 Sniper Weapon System.
We are authorized to report several weapon upgrades in the Ranger rifle company since the Global War on Terror began. M249 SAWs have been replaced by an improved version designated MK46 and M60s have given way to the 7.62mm MK48, FN’s beefed-up version of the MK46. Ranger snipers now employ the ultra-accurate and long-ranging MK13 bolt action rifle, chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum, the fast-firing 7.62mm MK11 Mod 0 semiautomatic and the hard-hitting .50 BMG M107 semiautomatic.
Night observation and target engagement capabilities – traditional Ranger specialties – have been dramatically upgraded with addition of the very latest in light intensifying and thermal imaging devices. Helmet-mounted PVS-14 and weapon-mounted PAS-10 and 13 night vision devices are among several that are efficiently employed in conjunction with weapon-mounted multi-function aiming devices utilizing narrow-beam infrared lasers and wider beam illuminators. These high tech combinations give today’s Rangers a significant tactical advantage in darkness and conditions of low visibility.
Communications within the Ranger squad and its chain of command have also undergone a revolution with widespread issue of the AN/PRC-148 MBITR (Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio). This hardy, light, powerful, and versatile two-way radio is now routinely used by all participants in certain combat missions, dramatically improving situational awareness and enhancing coordination with command and support elements.
Ranger body armor has also undergone a dramatic upgrade, with Special Operations Command’s BALCS (Body Armor Load Carriage System), providing a good balance between weight/mobility with protection against rifle caliber rounds. The Advanced Combat Helmet features improved fit and comfort and clearance for the headphones that are worn with the MBITR.
A Company Commander’s Perspective
While at Fort Benning for Ranger Rendezvous 2007, we asked our Public Affairs escorts to arrange an interview with the company commander of a representative Ranger Company. With understandable caution, we were asked to provide a list of questions in advance. This was immediately done, but the apparent sensitivity of some of the topics resulted in the decision to reply in writing instead of taking chances with OPSEC in an on-the-record interview.
We are pleased to report that Captain Dan Ferris stepped forward to meet the challenge. The 31 year old Ferris has been commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment for a year. This native of Walpole, Massachusetts has been Ranger qualified for ten years and during that time has had two wartime deployments in Operation Iraqi Freedom and two in Operation Enduring Freedom.
SAR: What is your biggest challenge as a commander?
Ferris: Balancing the operational tempo of the organization. We deploy often and conduct a busy training cycle when we are not deployed. As a chain of command we are constantly reviewing the training schedule to ensure that we are managing our time as efficiently as possible so that Rangers can also spend quality time with their families and friends.
SAR: How close to fully manned, equipped and trained is your company?
Ferris: As a matter of policy, we do not discuss manning and equipment status. However, I can tell you that the unit possesses all the Rangers and equipment it needs to accomplish any mission that it is called upon to complete at all times.
SAR: Being ready to go anywhere in 18 hours to perform so many different missions in such a variety of geographical areas and climates has to be challenging. How is this done in your company?
Ferris: Inside the 75th Ranger Regiment and our company there are 5 basics that we focus on at all times. Those basics are Small Unit Drill, Marksmanship, Medical Training, Physical Training and Driver’s/Mobility Training. By focusing all of our training on these fundamentals we are able to develop an excellent technical and tactical expertise base. This base allows us to overlay our abilities, with slight modifications for that situation, onto any environment that we may be placed in. During the training cycle prior to deployment we will also adjust our training locations and/or scenarios to mirror the conditions as closely as possible to what we will see overseas. Furthermore, there is a program inside the Regiment which maintains a rotation of NCOs through schools which train them on different environments so there is always a subject matter expert inside the company on any environment we could encounter.
SAR: If you could get additional quantities of one or two things that your company needs, what would they be?
Ferris: Communications equipment is key and essential to all missions. If there is one piece of equipment that we can always use more of it is MBITR radios (AN/PRC-148). We have enough to accomplish our wartime mission but having an overage of them would allow us to instantly backfill a broken radio with an operational one if the broken radio requires higher level maintenance. And, it provides us with more flexibility to augment a certain mission with more radios to assist in the execution of the mission if it has a unique task organization or additional augmentees on top of our normal enablers.
SAR: Anything in particular that makes your company stand out from others in the Battalion?
Ferris: For the past several years the company has enjoyed excellent retention rates. Based off the high reenlistment rate there is a large number of Rangers in the company with an extensive experience base on both training and combat operations. Because of this we are able to sustain a high level of proficiency. Additionally, as we receive new Rangers to the company there is a large number of leaders available to train and educate them.
SAR: Comment on your current NCOs and the quality of “typical” new Rangers coming into the company.
Ferris: The combat experience, maturity, leadership ability, and technical and tactical competence of the Ranger NCOs in the company is the best that I have observed in any unit I have served in during the past 10 years. The NCOs are the backbone of the Ranger Regiment and perform their duties at a level of competence that far exceeds their pay grade and associated level of experience. New Rangers arriving to the company are highly motivated and eager to learn their new job. They are immediately integrated into their fire team and mentored on every aspect of being a Ranger by their Team Leader and fellow Rangers.
SAR: What would you like SAR to emphasize in the “Profile of a Ranger Company” feature article?
Ferris: All our Rangers are multiple volunteers – they want to be here; therefore, they train hard, they fight hard and they live the Ranger creed every day. We have maintained contact with the enemies of our nation since October 2001. The Regiment manages a cycle where Rangers are either deployed, recovering from a deployment or training for the next deployment. Some of the Rangers are on their ninth deployment in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our actions are evidence of our commitment to the United States.
Our request for a live interview with a representative Ranger while at Benning for Ranger Rendezvous 2007 was rewarded with some very interesting time spent with Sergeant Myles Grantham, a sniper assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
We caught up with him on Farnsworth Range where he and several fellow Ranger NCOs were conducting the Stress Shoot Competition (SAR Vol. 12, No. 1, October 2008). A 24 year old native of Madison, Mississippi, Grantham left the National Guard to become a Ranger and has been with the Regiment for four years. His most recent combat deployment was in 2006 for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He can’t discuss the details but along with several other awards and decorations – notably including the Combat Infantryman’s Badge – he has earned the Army’s Joint Commendation Medal with “V” for Valor. No doubt another compelling story that is currently barred by high-level directives from being told. That said, reasonably knowledgeable persons can read between the lines.
Although our conversation with this serious but amiable Ranger Sergeant was closely monitored by our Public Affairs escort, Grantham’s comments seemed very candid and natural. Any young man who is thinking about becoming a Ranger would be well served to pay careful attention to what he told us.
SAR: What made you volunteer to become a Ranger?
Grantham: I wanted to do better things and it seemed like the Rangers is where you go to really have a purpose. To make things happen. I knew a couple of Rangers and they said it was a lot of good training and I’d do a lot of top notch things. I also researched what they’d done in past wars. I’ve always been interested in the Vietnam War and Rangers.
SAR: What’s the hardest part about the qualification process to become a Ranger? Was it Ranger School?
Grantham: I think “RIP” (Ranger Indoctrination Program). It was just a good gut check, psychologically and physically.
SAR: What got you through it?
Grantham: I guess it’s heart. Nothing spectacular. Just don’t quit.
SAR: You had “Ranger Buddies” during that time too. Did that help?
Grantham: Yeah, it’s a whole team effort with all your friends. Everybody wants to get through and get in the same company together. Camaraderie.
SAR: What’s the hardest part about training and other activities in a Ranger Company? What do you really have to get yourself psyched up to do when that comes around?
Grantham: I’d say Airfield Seizures. Probably the toughest and most physically demanding thing here. It’s a lot of training and you don’t sleep much. Jumping out of airplanes three times a week and it’s just a strenuous environment.
SAR: How does the chain of command or your Ranger Buddies help you with the toughest parts – Airfield Seizures and that kind of thing?
Grantham: This is a normal way of life in the Rangers. There’s gonna be tough things everywhere. You’ve just gotta suck it up and do it. I guess we’re just hard nosed people. It’s hard but it doesn’t bother me. It’s just what has to be done.
SAR: What do you like best about being in a Ranger Company?
Grantham: Shooting (smiles). I like shooting guns a lot. I took sniper training here at Fort Benning (US Army Sniper School).
SAR: Describe a typical day of field training for you and Rangers in your sniper section.
Grantham: PT (physical training) then chow. Our chow hall is supposedly the best in the Army. Then, usually our section will go to the range and shoot a lot at unknown distance. We’re snipers, so we go out to the range three times a week with our rifles.
SAR: Since you’re a sniper, one might think that your sniper rifle would be your favorite weapon.
Grantham: Yeah, I’ve taking a liking to it, I guess. A Knight’s Armament SR-25 called the MK11. I’ve shot it a lot and I know it, I’m used to carrying it around. It’s something I’ve worked with the past few years. I’m accustomed to it. The best weapon I know right now.
SAR: What capabilities do you particularly like about the semiautomatic SR-25 versus a bolt action sniper rifle like the M24 or the MK13? Remember, we’re a gun magazine and our readers want to know specifics.
Grantham: This is a personal reply from me. There are more rounds in the magazine – twenty rounds instead of five. It’s pretty much a big M4 (5.56mm SOPMOD M4A1 Carbine issued to most Rangers). It’s fairly easy to maneuver with. Faster second shot capability of course; you can keep your target in the sights and squeeze off another shot if necessary without having to manipulate the bolt.
SAR: What’s your favorite piece of gear? Something that exceeds your expectations?
Grantham: My rack (body armor) where I have my ammunition magazines; carriers from Tactical Tailor, a lot of people use them. It’s personal with snipers because how our body types are. I clip mine in between so it doesn’t bother me the way I lie in the prone. Doesn’t mess up my breathing.
SAR: What weapon or gear would you like to have that isn’t currently issued?
Grantham: I’m on OPSEC (Operational Security) there. (Asks PAO escort) Can I say .45 caliber Glock pistols? (OK to state your personal opinion.)
SAR: Interesting, particularly since the Regiments general-issue sidearm is the 9mm Beretta M9. Are you aware of the M110, now standardized in the Army as the M110, the higher speed version of Knight’s SR-25? This is a product improved SR-25 that’s gone through the whole US Army procurement system and it is as good as the Army will let it be. Is that something that you’re looking forward to?
Grantham: I’m looking forward to any new equipment that will make me and my job more effective. If it makes me better at my craft then yeah, I’ll try it out.
SAR: Comment on the NCOs and officers in your company.
Grantham: Stand up guys. You can trust them. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t respect the people. Like the “RIP” (Ranger Indoctrination Program) Airborne Liaison. He’s a good judge of character and a stern man. He makes sure the right people are here. And, in my opinion, we need guys like him.
SAR: Tell us about any of the snipers you know who are very good at what they do. Men who have influenced how you do your job.
Grantham: They won’t want me saying their names.
SAR: Understood. What would you like to say to readers of Small Arms Review about your job as a sniper in the Rangers?
Grantham: It’s the fundamentals of marksmanship. That’s how it’s always been for me. That’s how a lot of people who are better than me have told me it’s the same thing for them too. It doesn’t matter how good the equipment is. If you don’t have fundamentals and know how to use it, it’s a pile of junk. There’s an expression, ‘It’s not the arrow, it’s the indian.’
SAR: Describe any memorable event from any GWOT deployment, particularly anything related to combat action.
PAO escort: We can’t talk about what goes on. When it comes to Ranger operations they’re an unclassified unit that routinely conducts classified missions. The last ones approved for discussion were with the initial push into Iraq. That Rangers conduct numerous raids almost daily is releasable.
SAR: So, Sergeant Grantham can’t say something like, ‘Sniper teams also serve as forward observers. One time when we were out there we saw what looked like preparations for an IED ambush. We reported it and soon an air strike came in, saving a Coalition convoy.’ Something like that?
PAO escort: No, sorry. I hear some great Ranger stories about what these guys do and it’s the joy in my job.
(Editor’s Note: The USASOC History Office has recently published a definitive book on Army Special Operations Forces in the recent Iraq war entitled ROAD TO BAGHDAD. Astonishingly candid and richly detailed despite essential censorship to allow UNCLASSIFIED distribution, it is available for public purchase from the US Government Printing Office at www.bookstore.gpo.gov.)
SAR: Understood. Now, Sergeant Grantham, if you were a Ranger recruiter what would you say to other young men out in the civilian world about why they should enlist for Rangers?
Grantham: Honestly, it’s the best place to come to off the street where you can do things nobody else will ever do. Also Esprit de corps and brotherhood. Being around good friends, lifelong friends. Guys you can trust. Come here, you’ll learn a lot, you’ll do a lot things you’ve always dreamed of.
SAR: What will you learn about yourself if you make it all the way through the process and become a Ranger?
Grantham: If you can survive here you can survive anywhere. This place is a machine. If you aren’t Ranger material it weeds you out quick.
SAR: Is anybody who is physically fit suited to be a Ranger? Or, is there something about the Ranger attitude, the challenges you’re faced with, that weed people out?
Grantham: A lot of people come here and they think they can make it just physically. Having a high PT (Physical Training) score will only take you so far. You have to show up on time, be responsible, be trustworthy. You are going to be challenged mentally on a daily basis. They’ll put you in charge so you’ve got to make the right decisions. A lot of guys can’t do that.
Special Ranger Events
Because Rangers are highly competitive and fiercely loyal to their elite brotherhood, it follows that there would be numerous opportunities to meet, greet and compete.
Perhaps the best known of these is the annual Best Ranger Competition. The 25th anniversary of this grueling, non-stop, sixty-hour event is scheduled for 18-20 April 2008 at Fort Benning, Georgia. Originally created to salute the best two-man “buddy” team in the Ranger Department at Benning, it is now open to teams from all of the US Armed Forces. Information available on the web at www.bestrangercompetition.com.
The Annual Ranger Muster is sponsored by the US Army Ranger Association. Information available at www.ranger.org.
Ranger Rendezvous is held every two years as an official activity of the 75th Ranger Regiment. This is the biggest and best, traditionally opening with a mass tactical parachute assault and driving on for three days of military-theme competition, equipment displays, solemn ceremonies, and more. Location and dates for the 2009 Rendezvous have not been announced as of this writing. Information available at www.benning.army.mil/75thranger/index.asp.
Find Out More
We suggest the following internet references for detailed information on the Regiment:
75th Ranger Regiment Official Website: www.benning.army.mil/75thranger/index.asp
Ranger Recruiting: www.goarmy.com/ranger/index.jsp
75th Ranger Regiment Association: www.75thrra.com
US Army Ranger Association: www.ranger.org
Ranger Mega-site: http://suasponte.com
Best Ranger Competition: www.bestrangercompetition.com
US Army Special Operations Command: www.soc.mil
75TH RANGER REGIMENT FACT SHEET
Primary Source: U S Army Special Operations Command Public Affairs
The 75th Ranger Regiment is the U.S. Army’s premier raid force. With a primary mission of planning and conducting special missions in support of U.S. policy and objectives, the regiment is headquartered at Fort Benning, Ga., and consists of four geographically dispersed Ranger battalions:
- lst Battalion – Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.
- 2nd Battalion – Fort Lewis, Wash.
- 3rd Battalion – Fort Benning, Ga.
- Regimental Special Troops Battalion – Fort Benning, Ga.
Since the advent of the Global War on Terrorism after Sept. 11, 2001, the 75th Ranger Regiment has conducted combat operations with almost every deployed special operations, conventional, and coalition force during both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Regiment participated in a wide range of diverse operations that included airborne and air assaults into Afghanistan and Iraq, mounted infiltrations behind enemy lines, complex urban raids and rescue operations.
Throughout this period, the Rangers have continued to train in the United States and overseas to prepare for future no-notice worldwide combat deployments. Ranger battalions are on their ninth and tenth deployments since October 2001, and more than seventy percent of current Rangers have conducted multiple combat deployments.
The Regiment also continues to recruit, asses and train the next generation of Rangers and Ranger leadership to carry out missions including:
- to establish air-landing capabilities for follow-on forces,
- to establish trans-load sites for precious cargo
- conducted using both special operations and light infantry tactics, techniques and procedures
Special Operations Raids
- strategic assets – high payoff targets
- destruction or recovery missions
- routinely operate within restrictive rules of engagement
- advanced Military Operations in Urban Terrain techniques and breaching capability
- precision marksmanship
- advanced combatives (hand-to-hand) training
The Army maintains the Regiment at a high level of readiness. On any given day, one Ranger Battalion is on Ready Reaction Force (RRF) 1 with the requirement to be “wheels up” – outbound aboard transport aircraft – within 18 hours of notification. Additionally, smaller elements can deploy in 9 hours. The Regimental Headquarters remains on RRF1 at all times. While on RRF1, the designated battalion is prohibited from conducting any off post training, deployments for training (DFTs), etc., as they would be unable to meet the required deployment time standards. Because of the importance the Army places on the 75th Ranger Regiment, it must possess a number of capabilities:
Direct Action Force
- provides critical light infantry capability and skills
- routinely complements or supports other Special Operations Forces
- capable of executing platoon through Regimental-sized operations
- resourced for exceptional proficiency, experience and readiness
- increased lethality and agility due to habitual Special Operations Forces relationships and specialized equipment
- resourced and trained for deep, precise operations on hardened targets – in one cycle of darkness
- rapidly deployable and ready strike force
To maintain readiness, Rangers train constantly. Their training encompasses arctic, jungle, desert, and mountain operations, as well as amphibious instruction. The training philosophy of the 75th Ranger Regiment dictates the unit’s high state of readiness. The philosophy includes performance-oriented training, emphasizing tough standards and a focus on realism and live-fire exercises while concentrating on basics and safety. Training at night, during adverse weather or on difficult terrain, multiplies the benefits of Rangers. Throughout their training, Rangers are taught to expect the unexpected.
All officers and enlisted soldiers in the Regiment are four-time volunteers – for the Army, for airborne training, for the 75th Ranger Regiment and for the U.S. Army Ranger Course. Those volunteers selected for the 75th Ranger Regiment must meet tough physical, mental and moral criteria. All commissioned officers and combat-arms noncommissioned officers must be airborne and Ranger qualified and have demonstrated a proficiency in the duty position for which they are seeking.
Upon assignment to the Regiment, both officers and senior NCOs attend the Ranger Orientation Program (ROP) to help integrate them into the Regiment. ROP familiarizes them with Regimental policies, standing operating procedures, the commander’s intent and Ranger standards. Junior enlisted soldiers assigned to the Regiment must first go through the Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP). RIP assesses Rangers on their physical qualifications and emphasizes basic Regimental standards. Soldiers must pass ROP or RIP to remain assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Junior enlisted soldiers assigned to the regiment who are not yet Ranger qualified must attend a Pre-Ranger course, which ensures they are administratively, physically and mentally prepared before they attend the U.S. Army Ranger Course, conducted by the Infantry School’s Ranger Training Battalion. The result of this demanding selection and training process is a Ranger who can lead effectively despite enormous mental and physical odds.
Each of the three Ranger “rifle” battalions is manned by approximately 600 personnel, assigned to a headquarters company and three rifle companies. Ranger battalions are equipped to be light, deployable and high-tech. Equipment designers develop state-of-the-art warfighting equipment for the Regiment. Rangers are often first in the Army to test and field many new systems.
Some current Ranger weapons and equipment include:
- M9 9mm Pistol
- M4A1 5.56mm SOPMOD Carbine with M203 40mm Grenade Launcher
- MK13 .300 Winchester Magnum Sniper Rifle
- MK11 Mod 0 7.62mm Sniper Rifle
- M107 .50 cal. Sniper Rifle
- M1014 12 ga. Semiautomatic Shotgun and Modified Remington 870 Breaching Shotgun
- M240B, MK46, MK48 and M2HB Machine Guns
- Mark 47 40mm Grenade Machine Gun
- M3 84mm Ranger Anti-Armor Weapon System
- 60mm, 81mm and 120mm Mortars
- Javelin Portable Missile System
- Stinger Portable Anti-Aircraft Missile System
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
- M1113 Expanded Capacity Ground Mobility Vehicle-Ranger
- All-terrain Vehicles
- Full Spectrum Digitally Networked Tactical Communications
- Night Vision Observation, Aiming, and Targeting Systems
The Regiment does not have tactical aviation assets of its own. Essential short to medium range combat airlift and gunship support is supplied by US Army Special Operations Command’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). These are the famous “Night Stalkers,” with specialized helicopters including the diminutive A/MH-6 Little Bird, the versatile MH-60K Blackhawk and the powerful MH-47E Chinook. Air Force Special Operations Command provides longer range tactical airlift and heavy-hitting close air support with a variety of aircraft including the workhorse MC-130E/H Combat Talon and the fearsome AC-130H/U Spectre. Global reach is provided by Military Airlift Command.
The Regimental Special Troops Battalion (RSTB), activated 17 July 2006, conducts the sustainment, intelligence, reconnaissance and maintenance missions which were previously accomplished by small detachments assigned to the Regimental headquarters and then attached within each of the three Ranger battalions.
When Soldiers leave the Ranger Regiment for other Army units, they take with them enhanced combat skills, expertise in joint, special operations and conventional arenas as well as new tactics, techniques and procedures.
RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V12N2 (November 2008)|