Check out our latest interview with a recent graduate from US Army Ranger school. My buddy asked to stay anonymous since he’s still active and we’re still deploying to war. We respect his wishes and no opsec questions were asked or posted.
Question: What is the biggest misconception about preparation and what should you improve before attending Ranger School?
Answer: Good question, and one that comes up a lot. I would personally say the biggest misconception about preparation for Ranger School is that you can just ruck a few times before attending and be fine. What I mean by this is that during school you wear a ruck, weighing 80-120 lbs, constantly.
To answer the second part of the question I would recommend building 1-2 ruck marches/ week into your workout routine. I would do this 10-12 weeks out from school. Also during these rucks I wouldn’t run, but I would progressively add weight and distance to the rucksack (backpack). The idea is to get your ankles, hips, back, and shoulders used to having a heavy ruck on while you move (usually slowly) over a long period of time. It was a common occurrence to have guys dropped because their bodies simply broke down.
Check out the US ARMY Ranger Handbook: Not For The Weak or Fainthearted
Question: What would I do differently to prepare for Ranger School if I were to attend today?
Answer: If I had to go back to Ranger School (god forbid) I would definitely get on a ruck based training plan. We ruck often and are always wearing kit in the 75th Ranger Regiment. I thought I could slack on my own rucking because I already did it. This was a mistake. Knowing what I know now, I would add in a long, slow ruck 1x a week on top of the other training I was doing. Ranger School isn’t a marathon…it’s a test of durability that lasts 2+ months and getting yourself in decent ruck shape will only help your chances of graduating with your tab.
Question: What kind of mental preparation helped prepare for school?
Answer: The only real mental prep I can offer is go into Ranger School knowing full well it’s going to be really really Army gay (for those of you in the Army already I’m sure you know what I mean). A lot of the stuff you are forced to do will make you question just what the F*** you are doing with your life. If you know that going in it won’t be too bad.
Also while you’re in school I would suggest trying to find the humor in everything. Laughter goes a loooooooonnnnnngggg way when everyone is wet, dog tired, and starving. So to summarize: Prior to going know that it’s going to be really really gay. While you’re there try to laugh and fake smile as often as possible.
The best advice that I got though, which I wrote on the inside of my pc (patrol cap) was to just “put one foot in front of the other”. You can always put one foot in front of the other and if you do that enough times, you’ll graduate.
Question: What is the most important leadership quality that I learned, which is applicable to every man.
Answer: This is a good question. I would say the best leadership quality is to be selfless and do everything you can to help your buddies. I’m not sure that I learned this exact quality in school per say, but during Ranger School it becomes apparent very quickly who is shitbag and who is a quality human being. The shitbags do the bare minimum, or less, to get by and are only thinking of how sorry they feel.
The good dudes, and the ones you want as your Ranger buddies, won’t care how tired or hungry they are as long as they can help you get your go. Selfless leadership seems to create a positive atmosphere and people will go out of their way to help you. Even in the real world if you are always putting other people (ie… your family, friends, co-workers, peers…etc) above you, I would venture to say that you will be respected and be a person people want to be around.
Question: Was there a habit I developed before going through that helped carry me to graduation?
Answer: Being in the 75th Ranger Regiment demands a high level of attention to detail just to carry out day to day operations (or you’ll just spend your day doing pushups…) I would say that a good habit to get into is developing attention to detail. That will help you while you’re packing your ruck, or trying knots, or making sure your boot laces won’t break apart in mountain phase (happened to me).
Obviously when you’re dog tired attention to detail is the last thing on your mind, but if you can get in the habit of practicing it now, you’ll be more likely to check your guys magazines, or draw accurate sector sketches…etc and at least on a sub-conscious level be thinking about doing the right thing.
Question: What tips and tricks did I find most effective for staying effective while tired and hungry?
Answer: Good question. During long marches I would sing verses to some of my favorite songs. I’m not great at memorizing lyrics so I would cycle through basically the chorus’s from every song I could remember. That helped pass the time. Another tip is DON’T make lists of all the food you’re going to eat when you get out. I tried this and just ended up realizing how hungry I was and that I wouldn’t have a domino’s pizza for quite a long time. I actually was depressed for like the next hour.
The best tip I can offer is to find a good Ranger buddy to talk to. You really can’t get through school on your own and having a friend there to chat with really goes a long way to improve morale. One thing I would say not to do is just dwell inside your own head. Your only thoughts will be: I’m hungry, I’m fucking cold, I just want to sleep, this sucks ass…obviously not the best mental chatter to help you stay positive. Talk to your Ranger buddy about whatever/ whenever.
Question: What did I find helpful when I thought I couldn’t go any further?
Answer: This kind of relates to the previous answer, but I don’t think I ever thought I literally couldn’t go on. I would revert back to my “just take one step” mantra quite often though. Even just putting your head down and focusing on putting one foot in front of the other helps take your mind off whatever you are doing (which is usually walking with a rucksack on your back).
You do get a period of I think 72 hours that you can use for “medical time”. If you are really hurting bad, don’t be afraid to see the medics, but it’s usually better to let them tell you to stop vs going to them on your own. If you really get to the point of thinking you can’t go on any further I challenge you to just take one more step…you’ll surprise yourself at how much your body can withstand and endure.
Thanks for posting all the questions. I hope I was able to offer answers to all of them. Good luck to anyone about to attend Ranger School. My last piece of advice is “don’t psych yourself out prior to going.” Show up, kick butt for 2 months, and go home. It definitely isn’t rocket science and you don’t need to over think it.
If there are more questions you want answered please post them up in Coach Brad’s SEALgrinderPT facebook group and I’ll do my best to answer them. I did ask to say anonymous, so any future answers will be posted in the same context as this article. Thanks and good luck.
Question: Where can I learn more about signing up for the US Army and becoming Special Forces? Check out the Army website here.
Army Ranger Books
Army Ranger Workout
Special Forces tips and interview with Alton Smith
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brad McLeod knows first hand about mental toughness. After passing Hell Week and Dive Pool Comp at BUD/S, he failed a math test and was kicked out of training. A year later, he returned, graduated, and served as an operator on the Navy SEAL Teams.
Today, he helps Veterans and athletes achieve their goals. Check out SEALgrinderPT Coaching to help you step up and take hold of your dreams and realize your goals.
SEALgrinderPT is a proud supporter of the Navy SEAL Foundation and raising funds for Veterans in Need.