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Crossing the Yellow River in U.S. Army Ranger School

Posted by John Reed on

Here are some things I posted on Facebook about the first female rangers about to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School.

Today’s paper has a photo of one of the two West Point grad women in ranger school. I was almost killed once in ranger school as I related in my web article about it. Today’s photo by Nick Tomecek of the Associated Press, shows a female ranger at the precise spot and doing the precise thing that almost got me killed. http://www.nytimes.com/…/women-in-army-ranger-school-move-a…

She is crossing the Yellow River in the swamp phase of ranger school at Eglin AFB FL. She is wearing the huge pack we had to carry and there is a rifle somewhere underwater, all attached to her [actually, not, see below].

Slide along a rope

The way you cross that river is a naked, good swimmer swims across with a thin line tied to a thicker rope back on the shore where he started. He ties the thin line around a tree on the far said then hauls the heavier rope across and ties that to the tree. It is also tied to a tree on the starting side. The ranger students cross one at a time with a carabiner clipping their pack harness to the rope and they move sideways along the rope by sliding their hands to their right. The female ranger student is doing exactly that in the photo.

When I did it, there was only one more student left behind me and the ranger instructor. The instructor decided we needed to speed it up by sending the last student when I had not yet reached the halfway point. In the photo, you can see the rope. But that is only true if there is just ONE student on it. If you send TWO out at once, the rope gets pulled under so far that the head of the leading student is pulled underwater by the rope and carabiner. When the water got up to my bottom lip and my arms were extended straight down to the submerged rope about two feet below the water surface, I was screaming and waving one of my arms telling the student behind me to go back, which he finally did.

Ranger students died in and on that river

That is a fast-flowing river. The river is coming from the ranger student’s back. When I was a freshman at West Point, the swimming instructors told us of a graduate from the class of 1964—the month before I entered West Point, who drowned during that crossing of the Yellow River by coming off the rope and not being able to get rid of his pack.

I note also that the rangers in many photos I have seen recently of this class with females in it are wearing protective goggles that are sunglasses. We had no such thing.

A graduate of the class of 1966—two years ahead of my class—Sam Champi—sent us a letter with advice after he graduated from Ranger School. One item was to wear glasses even if you do not need them and to have a band on them securing them to your head. I wore glasses and got the elastic band to keep them on. If I had it to do over, I would have gotten a pair of prescription sports goggles. Ranger School itself did not provide or suggest glasses. That was insane. You could lose an eye walking through the bushes at night.

Masochism school

I give these two women credit for being willing to try to become rangers, although not for brains. My article on ranger school says not to go there. It is mainly masochism, not training, and they kill a whole lot of students there so the survivors can use the deaths to brag about how tough they are.

But there is some evidence that the two women graduating day after tomorrow were ordered to be passed and may not have made it fair and square. It may also be they did make it fair and square and their male fellow students and instructors sabotaged them which needed to be overridden. You cannot trust the Army to tell the truth. The real truth will probably come out on the Internet.

Two officers may become the first women to graduate from Ranger School. For now, though, they are not allowed to try out for the Ranger regiment even if they pass ranger school.

nytimes.com |By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.

A reader of my Facebook page said she personally knows the woman in the photo and that she legitimately earned the ranger tab and that the West Point class of the female ranger student will also say she deserved the tab. Here is my response:

Good to hear. But like blacks who actually would have succeeded without affirmative action, the Army has managed to cast a cloud over these women’s accomplishment with:

• suspicious command interest in the matter

• Obama attending graduation

• a general as a lane grader

• three tries at Darby

• extra practice before the school

I would also note that knowing her outside of ranger school and her classmates’ endorsement are NOT dispositive.

Ranger School reveals lack of character or stamina or low breaking point

One of the great revelations of ranger school was that West Point classmates whom we thought we knew were revealed to be worthless at Ranger School. Two of our classmates refused to carry the very heavy radio or machine gun when it was their turn in one of the patrols I led. They had no reason. They just refused like two-year-olds. Both wore a bunch of stripes senior year meaning they were highly regarded as cadets.

Two of our classmates deliberately sabotaged one of my patrols. I was astonished. I did not think West Pointers would do such thing regardless of whether they liked you or not. These were guys I never knew at West Point and to whom I never spoke in my life before the school or at it except in the line of duty. I still graduated from ranger school and got recommended to be brought back as instructor. To this day I have no idea why those guys did that. It was dishonorable and both wear a ring with the word “honor” engraved on it.

Another of our classmates, there in my ranger class, but not in my patrol, kept “fainting,” or so he claimed. Time and again, his ranger classmates had to carry him and his rifle and pack during the patrols. You cannot imagine, unless you went through the school, how horrible just having to carry your own pack was, let alone carrying a body of a guy who is faking loss of consciousness and all his equipment. I was surprised his ranger mates did not throw him off a cliff in the mountains.

Another of our classmates in my patrol at Ranger lost it one night in the mountains going down hill. He had been a respected star man at West Point. But that night, he went nuts urging all of us to stop and refuse to go any further. He had become convinced we were walking down a mountain in a stream bed which I will not explain, but it is really bad. We had to sort of grab him by the lapels and remind him we were Army officers in training and out there in the dark way to the north was a place called the Pentagon and they were going to court martial his ass for mutiny if the lane grader got wind of what he was saying. He sobered up.

Another of our classmates at ranger in my patrol lost it in a super hot long march at Camp Darby. He started to swing his rifle around in circles and rambled crazily. I thought, and still think, he was faking to get medevacked and taken to the air-conditioned hospital where he would get lots of cold water. He got his wish. He later was decorated for bravery in Vietnam.

You would think after going through four years of West Point together, you would know a guy. But Ranger School, which is a whole new level of stress and pain and deprivation from West Point, revealed that was NOT the case for maybe a dozen West Point classmates in my ranger class and there was another ranger class of equal size with the other half of our West Point classmates. I would also add being in a joint business venture that loses money also reveals things about West Point classmates that you would never have dreamed.

All bests based on prior acquaintance are off

None of this proves the female rangers who are about to be awarded the ranger tab did not deserve to pass Ranger School. But it does prove, in my mind, that merely knowing them outside of ranger school—even as a West Point classmate—does not necessarily jibe with how they conducted themselves in the stress of ranger school.

These West Point classmates who surprised us by their lack of character and toughness in ranger were a distinct minority—I would guess 12 of our classmates who were in Ranger 3 (my class) and another 12 who were in Ranger 4 (the class behind mine) out of 706 total in the class, probably 600 or so of whom went to ranger school.


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