Pass Ranger School!

(Today's update: the October 2015 Packing List (with added items)!)

Whether you are a Private or a Colonel, you're here to find out how to earn your Ranger tab.  This page will give you all the info you need to start off on the right foot and to finish Ranger School with a first-time GO.  Here you'll find:

And for when you graduate and earn your tab:
  • Great gifts for new Rangers
  • Books and movies about US Army Rangers past and present
  • And more . . .
Good luck, God speed, and RLTW!

Packing List for Women in Ranger School (and Pre-Ranger)

The official packing list for women attending the WTC Ranger Training Assessment Course is not out, nor is there an official list for women attending Ranger School (although there is a standard packing list).  That said, we can look to other packing lists such as that for West Point Cadets or Sapper School students for insight.

1)  Three sports bras.  The first few days of RTAC are physically very strenuous, as is RAP week at Ranger School.  Rangers have to run frequently, overcome numerous obstacles, and get smoked almost non-stop.  For that reason, female attendees should plan on packing at least three sports bras.  Why three?  First, you will get very sweaty no matter what the temperature is outside.  Second, you will likely get wet and muddy a few times, and things take a while to dry.  The bras will likely need to have the minimum amount of spandex possible and will have to be black or brown.

2)  Extra baby wipes.  As a matter of hygiene, male attendees have it easier, given the way we're build below.  Female attendees will likely use significantly more baby wipes for hygiene reasons, so I expect the packing will allow for more to be brought.  Remember, however, that you should not bring a gargantuan bag of them -- it is better to bring smaller units that are sealed.  They will pass inspection more easily and will be less likely to dry out.

3)  Menstrual pads.  Face it -- this will happen while you are at school, so you will need to be
prepared.  I highly doubt tampons will be allowed because of the risks of Toxic Shock Syndrome.  The packing list will likely require unscented individually wrapped pads sufficient for one menstrual cycle, and the PX will provide a restocking opportunity during each phase.  Medics will likely be provided with some pads just in case, but you should always try to pack for your own needs.

4)  Medication for during menstruation -- very doubtful.  The West Point Camp Buckner packing list allows this, but I doubt it will be allowed for female attendees.  I'm also 100% certain that no female attendee will ask for it, but I added it to this list for the sake of completeness.

If you have any other thoughts of what female Rangers need to pack, please mention them in the comments section.  If you have some thoughts about why women shouldn't attend Ranger School, please write them on a piece of paper and put them in your pocket.


ROTC LDAC and the Road to Ranger School

For many young Soldiers, completing the ROTC Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) is a critical step towards the eventual completion of Ranger School.  In this post, I'll talk about why LDAC is so important to future officers who want to earn the Ranger Tab, and also give some hints and ideas related to the packing list, TACSOP, etc.

What is LDAC?

There is plenty of information on the web about LDAC, stating its purpose is to "train U.S. Army ROTC cadets to Army standards and to develop leadership and evaluate officer potential."  Much more important to those who want to earn the coveted Ranger Tab is the next part:  "this is accomplished through a tiered training structure using light infantry tactics as the instructional medium."  Think of LDAC as a baby step towards Ranger School -- a chance to develop light infantry basic skills, get experience leading a group of Soldiers you just met, and identify early weaknesses to work on before you head out to your Officer Basic Course.

Also, stop for a moment and think about how you'll actually earn a slot at Ranger School.  As an officer, your best chance by far is by branching Infantry.  To maximize your chance of doing that, you have to get higher in the ROTC Order of Merit List (OML).  And to do that, you have to earn high rankings in your ROTC Regiment. 

See how it all fits together?  Now let's dig into the details.

The Packing List

Here is an example of an ROTC packing list.  "Isn't that list a few years old?"  Sure is -- Cadet Command seems to hide the packing list each year, but luckily it doesn't change much.  There are a few basic things you'll definitely want to get, so why not buy items you can also use when you get to OBC and then Ranger School?  I have already posted the Ranger School packing list with plenty of hints and suggestions, so head over there to check it out.  Pay particular attention to items like the headlamp, gloves, etc. -- these are items that should last you years.  If you order any items from Amazon, you should sign up for the Student Amazon Prime program -- a good deal that is only available if you have a .edu email address.


You will be carrying your TACSOP with you during your entire time at LDAC, and you'll most likely refer to it oftent during your MS IV year while training the other Cadets.  Why not prep it up to last by giving it the same treatment you'll give your Ranger Handbook? I give a good overview on the best methods to use here.  Not only will the TACSOP last longer, but you'll also become familiar with this method and figure out your own tricks as you go along.

The Terrain Model Kit

Just like at Ranger School, you'll need an LDAC Terrain Model Kit.  You'll use it to plan out operations and brief the other Cadets, and you'll be able to save most of the pieces to reuse at OBC and Ranger.  Even if you think you'll lose everything, now is your chance to figure out what works for you -- which pieces are important, do you want to use chalk or not, etc.  Here is an entire post on the kit.

The end?

If you follow the advice I've already put together, I'm confident LDAC will just be the next step in your path to Ranger School.  Remember:  train as you fight.  Treat LDAC (and every other military experience) with the seriousness it deserves, and the fun will come along with it.  Next thing you know, you'll have great skills, great memories, and great opportunities ahead.

Ranger School Chin-Ups (Not Pull-Ups)

Looking good -- bar at collarbone level.  But watch those feet!
The Ranger Physical Fitness Test (RPFT) has four events:  the push-up, the sit-up, the 5-mile run, and the chin-up.  Although only one or two people fail to achieve the 6 chin-up minimum each cycle, that shouldn't matter to you. This is what is important:

  • Practicing the chin-up will make certain you have no stress about that event
  • If you work on chin-ups, you'll be stronger at rope climbs
  • The chin-up will help you with rappelling in Mountains
  • You'll be doing chin-ups before each meal in garrison
  • The chin-up will help you when you get to The Wall on the first field day of Mountains
  • The chin-up strengthens the back, balances your chest muscles, and will reduce injuries overall
So, pretty important, right?  Let's break down this exercise and how to do it right.

First thing first:  you will fail the chin-up event of the RPFT if you don't do them strict.  Strict means that the Ranger Instructor (RI) will stand about six inches in front of you and will direct your movements.  The only part of your body that should move is your arms.  So here is the breakdown:
  • When the RI says "mount the bar" (or "get the f**k up on the f'in bar"), mount the bar by jumping up and grabbing it with your palms towards you (palms away would be a pull-up).
  • Hang completely slack so you are fully extended.
  • When the RI says "up," pull-up using just your arms -- no movement of your feet, knees, or abs.  A good trick here is to tense your lower body slightly and point your toes downward. At the end of your pull, the bar should be right at the level of your collarbone -- not just below your chin.  Get comfortable -- you'll be there for a second.
  • When the RI says "down," lower down in a controlled way to a full dead hang.  Again, slightly tensed body with toes pointed downward will keep you from swinging.  Get comfortable again -- you're on the RI's schedule.
  • At this point, the RI will either keep directing you or will just tell you to continue.  Do not rush this -- straight up with just arms, brief pause with the bar at collarbone level, controlled downward to full dead hang, brief pause at bottom, then back again.
  • After your sixth chin-up, go to a dead hang and wait.  The RI will tell you "dismount" or "get the f**k of my g*ddamn bar, Ranger." 
  • Congratulations!  You just passed the RPFT and you're officially in the class for RAP Week.
The takeaway?  Forget the guys in the gym doing 1,000 chin-ups.  Forget the awesome kipping and butterfly pull-ups you're learning at the CrossFit box.  And forget going fast to build your numbers.  Get on the chin-up bar and work like you're doing the RPFT.

What do you need?  Nothing but a bar:
  • Here is the basic bar I used -- hangs from any standard door and doesn't need any bolts or screws.
  • Here is a super-fancy bar -- same price, but I've never used it.
Chin-up Time!
But guess what?  You probably have a playground near you -- and that means there is probably  playscape with a horizontal ladder ("monkey bars") or even a set of pull-up bars ready to go.  Just don't be creepy -- go in the morning when kids aren't there.

CrossFit and Ranger School

The very best way to prepare physically for Ranger School is to follow one of the PT plans posted on this site. They were created by the school, approved by Army fitness instructors, posted on the official school site, and followed by countless students who have since earned the coveted Ranger Tab. And they are strongly influenced by CrossFit.

Why CrossFit? The best answer is to quote from the CrossFit site itself: "constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity" will create true fitness.  And that quote? Also a perfect summary of RAP Week. If you want to make it through those first days and actually get the chance to earn your Ranger Tab, you need to "train as you fight."

Although a CrossFit affiliate is the best place to go, you can always get the basic gear yourself and do the PT plans on this site on your own.  Here are a few basics I recommend:

Reebok Nano shoes:  these shoes are designed to improve flexibility and maximize your natural strength by positioning your feet and hips correctly.  Go to any CrossFit box and 90% of the people will be wearing them.  The Nano 3.0 is worth the money, but if you're on a budget you can definitely buy the Nano 2.0 and get great results.  

Kettlebell:  Most CrossFit workouts (called workout-of-the-days or WOD's) have men using a weight of 1.5 or 2 pood (53 and 70 pounds).  Don't worry about that. If you are new to the kettlebell and you're buying it to train for Ranger School, 53 pounds is the most you should get. I'd recommend 45 pounds for a smaller guy and 53 (or close to it) for a bigger guy.

Speed rope:  Learning to do double-unders will build leg speed and strength to help you pass the running events. This rope is cheap, easy to size correctly, and fast -- exactly what you need.

Bumper plates:  Ok--let's not get crazy.  You definitely don't have to buy these to get ready for Ranger School.  But if you want to build a basic CrossFit setup at home, bumper plates (along with a bar and collars) are essential.  The proper use of this equipment is beyond this post, but the videos in the PT plans are a good start.

Running to Ranger -- the GPS watch

At the end of the day, Ranger students need to be able to run -- and a key part of your training should be mixing up a variety of distances, times and terrains.

First, regular running will turn whatever body type you have into the "lean-and-mean" variety, which is exactly what you want for the low-calorie, high-output days you'll have to handle for two (or more) months.  If you have a ton of muscle, expect to lose much of it during Darby, and expect to feel the loss.  Once you start smelling the ammonia in the field, you'll wish you had leaned up more beforehand and made your muscles as efficient as possible.

Second, running prepares your body for the stresses of long days on your feet, and for the slow but consistent energy output that Mountains will demand from your legs.  You want to build up the stamina of your lower body, and a combination of rucking and distance running is just the thing to do it.

Third, running is an easy metric to keep you on a training schedule.  As you follow the training schedules on this site, you'll see that they require regular runs of different durations and distances.  Rather than just run on a track or a fixed path, why not get out, mix up the terrain, and explore?  This is where a GPS watch comes in.

Although there are tons of GPS watches to choose from (Garmin, Timex, and Nike are the top brands), I strongly recommend the Nike+ Sportswatch.  The simple reason is the online tracking program.  After each of your runs, you can sync the watch to Nike+ Online, and it will track everything about the run -- the path you followed, the average pace, the distance, etc.  You can even add notes to each run, and can export the runs to share the path with others.

Even as you run, the watch can provide you with positive feedback, letting you know when you have set new distance or pace records.  For the Ranger student in training, this can be helpful during those long solo runs that none of your buddies want to do with you.

At the end of the day, a GPS watch is not a necessity -- but it sure is a helpful tool.

ONE IMPORTANT NOTE:  You cannot bring a GPS watch to school with you!  Check this packing list for recommendations on items for school.

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