The Blue / Green team recently talked to First Sergeant (1SG) Daniel Ryan (@meatymountainmoose) a current 1SG at Mountain Phase of Ranger School - Alpha Company, 5th RTB.
What are some common traits you see in guys who succeed in Mountain Phase?
Surprisingly, I see more peer failures than patrol failures. This is very interesting because peers are the one thing in Ranger School that an RI has no control over. When students think about who they want and don’t want on their team in Florida, they recall the peers they could count on. These are the soldiers that performed physically for them while they were in a graded position. It’s much more common to see a poorly reviewed Soldier with comments like low initiative and low attention to detail that it is to see a Soldier whose comments reflect poor tactical knowledge (mostly seen in soft skill MOS).
The bottom line is that the mountains create a problem for the squad that couldn’t handle the combined physical and mental exertion. The students who are physically able to get out of their bivy sack without fuss, volunteer for the resupply party, volunteer to be Team Leader (non-graded position) and carry extra rounds … those soldiers always peer incredibly high. Their teammates won’t forget these guys who help them get their go.
What are some common traits of guys you see fail in your phase?
This is a tough one one. I’ll start with patrol failures. Most patrol no-gos are due to a few common things.
- Issues with control over their element. I think a big reason for this issue is that leaders physically place themselves in the wrong spot. They are often needed in an area of high friction and problems, but too many students are so afraid to get a “no go” that they shy away. This is a leadership school and most times in Mountain Phase an 80% solution is good enough. The soldier that goes towards problems and does their best to put “grease in the axle” rather than shy away will generally have a better understanding of the given situation. This gives them an improved common sense solution. Soldiers that shy away will not have the information necessary to make decisions in line with the 5 principles of patrolling.
- Loss of tempo and violence of action on the objective. Here’s some free chicken - when in doubt, just freaking bound. Initiations on the objective are always pretty violent and this is the perfect time to burn the ammo so we don’t have to carry it later. But in all seriousness, when we get to the battlefield hand over and assault through the objective, THIS is where much of the actions on leadership suffer. When the RI’s review the no go’s for that task of assaulting the objective, the notes will often detail a distinct loss in tempo on the objective. It’ll look like heavy suppression from the SBF (support by fire), then the handover, and then a distinct pause where everyone is waiting for everyone else to tell them to maneuver. This pause will last so long that it completely kills the vibe throughout the assault for the entire PLT. When in doubt, bound your element.
For peer failures, just refer to my first question I answer above… don’t be the grey man! Don’t hide in the shadows! Your peers see it. You should help as often as you can but make sure you don’t cross the line and burn yourself out. Carrying heavy stuff is good , but when it causes you to fallout… you stop becoming a value add to the team. So now you’re dealing with the pain of the extra heavy equipment and you get some negative peers because others are seeing you slow the patrol down.
How important is team work during the patrols? Does maturity play a role here?
Team work is very important to the probability of passing their patrol. Believe it or not, I have seen an entire platoon come to mountains, and that same exact platoon (every single soldier), go forward to Florida. 100% of the platoon passed peers and patrols. They deserved it, too. That platoon worked for each other every day. They had their low points here and there but they worked for each other to make up for it. When individual soldier discipline is policed up at the lowest level, then the leadership is freed up to focus on a problem and develop a solution that makes sense… but if they’re always worried and spot checking for soldiers doing the wrong thing, then it takes away from actually dealing with the overall success of the patrol about to happen / on-going.
What’s your experience with guys bouncing back after a bad patrol? Does it completely crush some people ?
Soldiers bouncing back after a bad patrol happens more often than you’d think. The RIs in Mountain Phase take their job extremely seriously. They truly coach, teach, and mentor first, and evaluate last. The RIs will constantly develop the individual as much as they need throughout the patrol. Sometimes the development can sound like frustration and yelling , but believe it or not, the RI is often times just as pumped as you are when the machine guns start firing and people start maneuvering. They’ll always end their walk with a thorough AAR to the individual they graded. Bring paper, pen, and energy to write notes. Many won’t remember the AAR, so refer to your notes before your next look. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions while you’re being graded. It’s ok to want the platoon to succeed and the instructors will always help you, no matter the time of day or where you are in the patrol.
What is one area you think students need to be better prepared for?
One area students should be better prepared for is at the individual level. Skill level 10 tasks seem to have become less and less stressed at BOLC and at many of the big name Infantry units that send soldiers to Ranger. I’m probably going to offend some people saying this but if you saw what we saw, you’d understand. The Army is getting worse at enforcing individual soldier discipline and executing skill level 10 tasks. Filling radios, fixing machine gun malfunctions without ND’ing (negligent discharge), packaging a casualty in a skedco, bounding teams, and just doing the right thing without being asked are all examples of tasks that I consistently see a poor execution of. Leaders across the army - WE ARE LACKING! We need to take ownership and remember that if we can’t do the little things right, then the big things will never happen correctly.
People have different opinions about the value of Ranger School. What does it mean to you, and how has it impacted your career?
Ranger School to me is a leadership validation. It means that at some point in your career, you had it in you to drive further on less sleep and with more stress than most people in the military are willing to. It means that you picked the harder right over the easy wrong, and that you volunteered to step out of your comfort zone and suck for an extended period of time.
Once that Ranger Tab is pinned though, maintaining the validation to carry that tab can be just as difficult, and frankly, for some people, they don’t care to maintain their tab. They graduate and believe the army owes them every follow on promotion regardless of their rated performance - “I put out once so promote me forever…” That’s not the message they recited during the ranger creed. If you treat that creed like an oath after you graduate, then you will maintain your tab the right way. Come to School, graduate, and live the creed and all good things will follow… not just for you but for your whole team.
Who should try to get to Ranger School?
Everyone. That’s the bottom line. Everyone that wants a life test should come. I don’t care your branch of service, MOS, gender, or rank… if you want an honest test and validation of your grit and perseverance, then come to Ranger School. The best students I’ve ever seen have an array of unrelated backgrounds. The common things I see in the best students - they run towards friction and solve problems, even when they’re tired and hungry and don’t want to. They do it anyways and they don’t shy away from a challenge.
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