The United States Army Rangers are one of America’s most storied military units. They have been involved in military operations in defense of our nation and its ideals, in one form or another, since the French and Indian War (1754–1763). Their main purpose was to scout enemy activity, report back to their commanders and finally attack the enemy using surprise and swift action.
The term “Ranger” was first noted in England in the 13th century when these special units were used as anti-poaching forces across the countryside.
The earliest American Rangers were combined units of white settlers and Native American tribesmen who fought under British control against the French. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rogers is considered to be one of the “Fathers” of the modern Rangers. His Rogers’ Rangers participated in many scouting and raiding operations during the French and Indian War. His “Rogers’ Rules of Ranging” are still used by modern Rangers.
Ranger units were formed during the American Revolution, Civil War (Union and Confederate), World War II and the Korean War, but were disbanded after combat operations ceased. The training schools were still maintained until the Ranger units were made officially part of the Army’s force structure during the Vietnam War. Rangers have seen action in all of the major conflicts since Vietnam: Grenada, Panama, Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today, Rangers are primarily part of the 75th Ranger Regiment based in Fort Benning, Georgia. The Regiment is composed of three battalions (300 soldiers each) and a training brigade that puts soldiers through a three-phase, nine-week Ranger School.
Ranger School consists of three phases: the Benning stage in which newly assigned soldiers learn about Ranger operations, take part in strenuous physical fitness programs and begin to develop the necessary skills to complete the school. The next phase is the Mountain phase. In this portion, Ranger students learn military mountaineering tactics and operations and build confidence leading their fellow soldiers in simulated combat actions. The third and final stage of Ranger school is the Florida phase. At this point the students have begun to demonstrate strong leadership characteristics and are put through extensive testing in airborne, seaborne and air assault exercises culminating in a final field training exercise and peer review. Once the student has passed all exams (practical and written), they are awarded the Ranger “tab” (a half-moon shaped cloth badge attached to the left shoulder of their uniform with the word “Ranger” on it) and their tan berets and are officially United States Army Rangers.
The main unit of the U.S. Army Rangers, the 75th Ranger Regiment and its 3rd Battalion are headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia. The 1st Battalion is stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, and the 2nd Battalion is assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington. They can be deployed anywhere in the world with 18 hours' notice.
Modern Rangers are capable of a broad range of special operations activities including, but not limited to: raids, recovery of personnel and equipment, direct action, infiltration by land, sea and air, and supporting other special operations forces in conducting highly sensitive missions.
Many notable public figures have served as Rangers. Some include former Secretary of State Colin Powell, singer Kris Kristofferson, former Arizona Cardinal football player Pat Tillman, Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and actor James Earl Jones.
Rangers have been the recipient of the Medal of Honor for heroism 23 times since its creation during the Civil War.