The United States Army Rangers are elite members of the United States Army. Rangers have served in recognized U.S. Army Ranger units or have graduated from the U.S. Army’s Ranger School. The term “Ranger” was first used in North America in the early 17th century; however, the first ranger company was not officially commissioned until King Philip’s War (1676) and then they were used in the four French and Indian Wars. Rangers also fought in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the American Civil War.
It was not until World War II that the modern Rangers were born, authorized by General George C. Marshall in 1942. The six battalions of the modern Rangers were employed in wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and saw action in several conflicts, such as those in Panama and Grenada. Of the current active Ranger battalions, two—the 1st and the 2nd—have been in service since reactivation in 1974. The 3rd Ranger Battalion and the headquarters of the 75th Ranger Regiment were reactivated in 1984.
The 75th Ranger Regiment is now a special operations combat formation within the U.S. Army Special Operation Command (USASOC). The Ranger Regiment traces its lineage to three of six battalions raised in WWII, and to the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)—known as “Merrill’s Marauders,” and then reflagged as the 475th Infantry, then later as the 75th Infantry.
The Ranger Training Brigade (RTB)— headquartered at Fort Benning, GA— is an organization under the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and is separate from the 75th Ranger Regiment. It has been in service under various names and Army departments since World War II. The Ranger Training Brigade administrates Ranger School. Successful completion of this 61-day course is required to become Ranger qualified and to wear the Ranger Tab.
In order to prepare the Rangers for combat, the Army instituted the United States Army Ranger School. Initially, all Rangers trained at the school belonged to one of the numerous Ranger companies. After the Korean War ended and the companies were disbanded, the school continued to train new Rangers. All Rangers within the 75th are jump qualified, meaning the men have graduated Airborne training. There are many requirements within the regiment in order for soldiers to be given permission to train with the 75th. It is recommended that soldiers be at their top physical condition before they apply for Ranger school. The men can be from any military occupational service when they apply. “The Ranger Instructors are all four time volunteers within the regiment and are highly trained in their fields of expertise.” If soldiers pass Jump School, they are admitted to train for the 75th regiment. The physical requirements to begin training in the regiment are very tough. Soldiers must be able to pass the Army physical fitness test with 80% or higher, and must be able to run 5 miles, no slower than an eight minute pace per mile. Soldiers must be able to complete a road march of twelve miles within three hours or less with a full combat load (between seventy five and eighty pounds), and must be able to swim fifty feet in an Army Combat Uniform (ACUs) with their boots on. Soldiers must also score 70% or more on all written exams. If the soldiers pass the physical assessment, then they may begin RASP, (or Ranger Assessment Program). The Crawl phase is 20 days long and strains the physical aspects of all candidates. The Walk phase stresses Platoon and squad team work, combat awareness, and combat control within mountainous regions. Rangers are trained to command platoons, carry out and successfully complete missions. The Run Phase shapes the Ranger’s combat arms functionality. This training puts the Ranger under high amounts of stress and under extreme physical demands. The Rangers command platoon sized units of air assault, small boat, and airborne soldiers. The training also consists of conducting training operations against a simulated opposition force. If the candidate passes the last phase then he is admitted to a battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) and Long Range Patrol companies (also known as Lurps) were formed in the mid-1960s as a “reactive necessity to the US Army’s lack of units capable of reconnaissance behind enemy lines”. On January 1, 1969, under the new U.S. Army Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS), these units were “re-designated as Rangers” in South Vietnam within the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger). Fifteen companies of Rangers were raised from “Lurp” units—which had been performing missions in Europe since the late 1950s and in Vietnam since 1966. The genealogy of this new Regiment was linked to Merrill’s Marauders.
In Vietnam, the Rangers were organized as independent companies: C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O and P (With one notable WWII exception, since 1816, U.S. Army regiments have not included a Juliet or “J” company).
Each company from the 75th Infantry (Ranger) was assigned to a major US army combat unit:
Rangers in Vietnam conducted long range reconnaissance into hostile territory. They collected intelligence, planned and directed air strikes, acted as force-multipliers in conventional operations, assessed aerial bombing damage in enemy-controlled areas, executed hunter-killer missions, both day and night, conducted ambushes, and specially-trained and specially-equipped Ranger snipers killed selected enemy personnel.
Additionally, Rangers attempted the recovery of friendly prisoners of war; captured enemy soldiers for interrogation, tapped North Vietnam Army and Viet Cong wire communications lines in their established base areas along the Ho Chi Minh trail, and mined enemy trails and motor vehicle transport routes.
After the Vietnam War, division and brigade commanders determined that the U.S. Army needed elite, rapidly deployable light infantry, so in 1974 General Creighton Abrams constituted the 1st Ranger Battalion; eight months later, the 2nd Ranger Battalion was constituted, and in 1984 the 3rd Ranger Battalion and their regimental headquarters were created. In 1986, the 75th Ranger Regiment was formed and their military lineage formally authorized. The 75th Ranger Regiment, comprising three battalions, is the premier light-infantry of the U.S. Army. It is the deadly combination of special operations and elite airborne light infantry. The Regiment is a flexible, highly trained and rapid light infantry unit specialized to be employed against any special operations targets.
The 4th, 5th, and 6th Ranger Battalions were re-activated as the Ranger Training Brigade, the cadre of instructors of the contemporary Ranger School; moreover, because they are parts of a TRADOC school, the 4th, 5th, and 6th battalions are not formally included to the active strength of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
The Rangers have participated in numerous operations throughout modern history. In 1980, the Rangers were involved with Operation Eagle Claw, the 1980 rescue attempt of American hostages in Tehran, Iran. In 1983, the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions conducted Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. All three Ranger battalions, with a headquarters element, participated in the U.S. invasion of Panama (Operation Just Cause) in 1989. Bravo Company, 1st Battalion was deployed in the First Persian Gulf War (Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield) in 1991. Bravo Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion was the base unit of Task Force Ranger in Operation Gothic Serpent, in Somalia in 1993, concurrent with Operation Restore Hope. In 1994, soldiers from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Ranger Battalions deployed to Haiti (before the operation’s cancellation. The force was recalled 5 miles (8.0 km) from the Haitian coast.). The 3rd Ranger Battalion led the attack in Afghanistan, in 2001. The Ranger Regiment has been involved in multiple deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since 2003.
After September 11, the United States began what it called its War on Terror with the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. Special Operations Units such as the Rangers, along with some CIA officers were the first US Forces on Afghan soil during Operation Enduring Freedom. This was the first large Ranger operation since the Battle of Mogadishu (1993). The Rangers met with success during the invasion and, along with the other US Special Operations forces, played an integral part in overthrowing the Taliban government. They also participated in the biggest firefight of Operation Anaconda in 2002 at Takur Ghar.
In 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq, the Rangers were among those sent in. During the beginning of the war, they faced some of Iraq’s elite Republican Guard units. One of their notable achievements in Iraq was the rescue of American prisoner of war POW Private First Class Jessica Lynch. The 75th Ranger Regiment has been one of the few units to have members continuously deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.