And for the final installment of True Life: I’m A Ranger School Wife, here are some of the preparations we made before Ranger School and some of the what-I-wish-I-knew-thens that we picked up along the way…
- Before your Ranger leaves, make sure you’re ready. This may sound a little self-explanatory, but I don’t just mean “good to go.” I mean make sure that ALL of your ducks are in a row. Your Ranger is leaving for at least nine weeks. Do you have current POA (general and special)? Do you both have a will (you can’t be too prepared, and you’ll be at JAG anyway for the POAs)? Have you talked about money and saving? Have you made recordings of him reading stories for your little ones and backed them up on your computer? Do you know how to work your lawnmower? Do you have a Ranger buddy? Do you have plans to visit friends and family? Make sure you and your Ranger are on the same page before he leaves, that he knows what’s coming up in your future, that he knows your expectations of him and him of you while he’s gone.
- Prepare to spend money. Tons of it. Ranger school is ex.pen.sive. New boots, new uniforms, the best socks, eye-pro, watch. You name it. He needs it. And all of that brand new stuff he leaves with? Wrecked by the time he’s returning home. So you’ll be buying it all…twice. Insider tip: Check out reclamation sales on post for nearly new army issued items, like uniforms, t-shirts, belts, etc. on sale for a fraction of the price you’d pay at clothing and sales.
- If you want to receive mail from your Ranger, send self-addressed and stamped envelopes with paper in them in his duffel. Send as many as he’s willing to carry, and then slip in a few extras. His Ranger buddies will undoubtedly need to borrow supplies to send word home to their families, and if he can provide, his peers will be grateful. The easier you can make it for him, the more likely he will be to write home. And remind him to send letters home via chaplains or lunch ladies for quick delivery!
- If you plan to write to your Ranger, make sure he knows it. I told Andrew to expect letters from me OFTEN. As in every day. So when his mail was being held from him during Mountains, he knew not to be worried that something happened to me or to let it break his spirit. He was in on the mind game and that helped keep his morale up.
- Send him with the calendars. You know that calendar of daily events at Ranger School that you have on your refrigerator that you’ll X off every day he’s gone? Copy it, shrink to the size of a credit card and laminate it. The guys get really disoriented out there, but they always know what “day” it is. So knowing what might be headed their way can help to take the edge off. Fear is one of the biggest enemies in Ranger School.
- The packing list reigns supreme. We spent every night for a week going over that list together. Checking and rechecking, highlighting and crossing off. When in doubt, consult the packing list. Not sure if it’s restricted? Check the packing list. White or tan underwear? Check the packing list.
- The packing list has some back doors. For a lot of items, you can bring more than what the list says. Socks for example- bring as many as you want to carry. And make sure they are Fox River Socks, if you want your feet to stand a chance. But for other items, like gum, you may only carry the exact quantity and no more.
- No matter how you pack it, you’re going to have to repack it. Andrew took the time to put all of his TA-50 (read: Army stuff) into Ziploc bags and mesh bags. He wanted it to be as easy as possible to find things at a moment’s notice. In one of his first letters, he informed me that they didn’t let him use any of his packing cubes. So all of his stuff was shoved haphazardly into his ruck and duffel. No sense of what’s where. And it wouldn’t have mattered if he did know where anything was, because any time they felt like it, the RIs would have a lay-out (where you dump the entire contents of your bags out), they’d check for contraband,nd then tell you to pack it back up in 30 seconds. GO. So save yourselves the headache and stuff it all in as you’re packing the first time.
- PT. Good for you. Good for me. PT. If you’re not in the best shape of your life, don’t go to Ranger School, yet. There are plenty of pre-ranger PT programs out there online. Use them or develop your own training schedule. Just PT. Every day. Twice a day. In your boots. With a huge ruck on. And wives, even though it will seemingly wreck your last days/weeks/months together before he goes, try to encourage him. Because the better shape he is in on the upfront, the better chance he will stand when he gets there. You don’t want PT to be the thing that holds him back.
And finally, to all the future Rangers, a few things I picked up, and I wasn’t even there, so they must be important…
- Do not steal MREs.
- Do not “surface sh*t.”
- Do not wear any unauthorized articles of clothing, no matter how cold. And if you are given permission to put on snivel gear, that permission usually expires when the RIs change shift. Beware…
- Do not sneak or forget about food in your pockets. Even a packet of salt.
- Never, ever, ever quit.