remembering ranger school.

52 weeks have gone by since my husband completed his nine weeks of training at Ranger School, but to me it feels like just yesterday.

It feels like just yesterday that I was crossing days off my calendar, counting backwards from 61; that I was penning eight page letters on the daily to my freezing cold, pneumatic soldier; that I was throwing gum, beef jerky, calling cards, socks and cookies into end-of-phase care packages; that I was staring at my phone willing it to ring, to hear the only word on my mind- “GO”; that I was pinning the coveted golden tab onto my husband’s arm.

ranger tab

Ranger School…

One year ago I wrote the True Life: I’m A Ranger School Wife series, and, to this day, those posts are the most popular on my blog. I know you’re out there Ranger School wives (and fiances and girlfriends and moms and dads)! If there is anything I can help you understand better, any questions I can answer, any advice I can offer, any resources I can point you toward, please let me know. Because I still remember how hard it is to be facing down those nine weeks alone, without information and with no one who really understands. I’m here for you!

Also, thank you for the service of all our nation’s veterans- past and present. Without you, there would be no US.

true life: i’m a ranger school wife — what i wish i knew.

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.
You’ve been warned. And now I wish you the best of luck at Ranger School! You can do it. Both of you. RLTW!
Ranger tab

true life: i’m a ranger school wife — graduation.

And finally, a recap of the ever-elusive grad week!

Phonecalls

After my  two minute phone call on Sunday at 10:38PM EST, I didn’t hear from Andy again until Monday night/Tuesday morning, at 1:57AM EST. We got to talk for 45 minutes! It felt SO wonderful to be able to catch up and even to talk about not important stuff. It was also during this call that I realized Andrew was in CST, an hour behind me! No wonder he didn’t think it was too late to call (it’s never too late, guys- make those phone ring)!

After being bussed back to Benning on Tuesday morning (at around 6AM CST) and arriving on post at about 11AM EST, Andrew was able to call me again on on Tuesday night at 8:31PM EST. We talked for 19 minutes. He told me to get ready for his pass the next day!

Passes

Class 11-12 had two passes during grad week.

On Wednesday the guys got their long pass. They were released at 12PM in the Camp Rogers parking lot (same place for Darby pass) and were back in formation by 9PM, which meant having him in the parking lot of Camp Rogers by 8:30PM.

Previous classes had the short pass on Wednesday and the long on Thursday, but because another class was just finishing RAP week and drawing equipment from CIF for Darby, 11-12 had to shift their schedule. On Thursday they turned in their equipment to CIF and were then released. I picked him up 5PM and were back in formation by 9PM (again, 8:30PM in the parking lot of Camp Rogers).

During both passes, we just relaxed and Andy ate. And ate. And ate. Which is a good segue into…

Food

When grad week is upon you, make sure you have stocked your pantry. And when you think, “Holy crap, this is so much food. I may have gone overboard!” – go out and buy more groceries. Everything from fruit to peanut butter to frozen pizza to meats to ice cream with every possible topping. Make sure you’ve got it all. Because your Ranger will eat you out of your home. They have a “take-no-prisoners” attitude when it comes to food, and they can put it away faster than you can make it. Starvation is a scary thing.

After about two weeks, the ravenous eating starts to level off and return to normal. But during those two weeks it was not uncommon for me to find my husband sitting in the office in the dark, on the computer looking at the Ihop website scrolling through Cinnastax pics, while munching on some Hershey Kisses. Food porn. It’s real.

Graduation

I got to the parking lot at 8:15AM and the line was already about 15 people long. They started seating people at approximately 9:30AM. Note: the walk down to the stadium is steep. I did it in boots with a heel and a stroller. It was NOT easy. Neither was running up to change a diaper in between the demo and the ceremony. I recommend stashing flats in your purse and wearing an easy on/off heel.

The demonstration hour began at 10AM. It was an entertaining and exaggerated look at some of the skills the rangers were taught during the course. I definitely recommend arriving in time to see it. Directly following, the graduation ceremony took place at 11AM.

Here seems as good a place as any to brag about my amazing husband. At the Class 11-12 graduation ceremony, Andrew was presented the Distinguished Honor Graduate Award and the Officer Honor Graduate Award. In other words, he smoked the crap out of Ranger School! I have never been more proud of my husband than I was that day, standing behind him holding our daughter, watching him receive such high honors.

Ranger school award ceremony

Andrew remains so humble about his experience; he couldn’t have excelled without such an amazing group of guys going at it with him, especially his squad- the original 11-12 Alpha 2nd Platoon, 1st Squad.

Ranger school graduation

After 62 days, 29 letters sent, seven letters received, four phone calls, three passes, two packages and one graduation…Andrew got his tab.

Ranger School Grauation

Ranger tab
Rangers lead the way!