No One Ever Asked: How I went through Ranger School two times.
by Douglas L. Barnett
I need to paint the picture of how this all came about. I went to Ranger School twice. Now the only way you are allowed to go to Ranger School is to go, and then if you don’t pass you have the option to request a recycle. Otherwise you cannot go again. So how did you go to Ranger School twice?
The first time I was a newly promoted 1LT in the Summer of ‘85. I was selected to become a General’s Aide and was in route to this assignment. The General had to give me permission to attend Ranger School and miss my reporting date to his unit. I was a Quartermaster Officer and the QM branch got two Ranger Slots per year. I was one of the slots for 1985. I did not graduate. I was peered out, mostly due to my lack of tactical knowledge. All of my peers knew much more than I did coming from the QM field. No excuses, but it did take me a long time to bring myself to tell folks this.
OK, fast forward to class 6-89. So four years later and a Captain. Now this time, knowing my skillset needed a ton more knowledge in combat arms and operations orders, I came prepared. Upon my decision to attend you must always fill out the paperwork and for those not coming straight out of Infantry Office Basic Course it is rather a lot of paperwork to everything in order. I attended RIP (Ranger Indoctrination Program) which most enlisted soldiers must take in order to attend. It is really a three week hell course designed to thin the herd.
I went to RIP at Ft. Bragg, NC in the dead of winter. So we had even more fun and more opportunity to train in piss poor weather. After that and about twenty more forms later I was able to process and submitted my packet for Ranger School…. again. Back in those days only two Divisions got mandatory slots per class and that was the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions. So every class you would go and wait up at Division HQ and the CSM would come and call your name. If you were called you go on the bus and went to that Ranger School class.
I went to five such musters and four of the five times the CSM looked at me my rank and the fact that I was a QM Officer and would say, “What the Hell do you need with Ranger School – Sir.”… and would not even wait for my reply but just move on to the next solider. Now on the fifth time, the CSM looked at the roster…. again, looked at me …. again, and said “You are really stupid or you really want to go – Sir.”….. and again did not even wait for my answer before saying, “get on the bus.” I was on my way to Ranger School ….. again.
It is important to understand that from my direct superiors, medical, admin, all the cadre at RIP, and the Division CSM not one single person or form asked, “Have You Ever Attended Ranger School in the Past?”
This time around although I regretted attending from the first step off that bus, but I was spot on with my tactical and technical knowledge. As the course progressed, I was on my way to becoming the Honor Graduate with my scores and peer ratings for the course. Finishing super strong and in the Desert Phase (which was the last phase for this class, it rotated from FL to Desert) they feed you and you get to shower and get ready for the Jump back into Benning, where we will be tabbed. It is called being “tabbed out.”
So I am shaving my head and getting ready for a good night’s sleep in an actual bed since I can’t remember when. It is customary for all Rangers attending school in each phase to carve their Name, Rank, Branch and Year they are going through Ranger School on one the wooden bathroom stall walls. I had gone through the Desert Phase on my first go around and had carved Barnett, Lt. QM 1985 and this was in the stall as I came back in 1989.
So I am walking down the low light hall way to my bunk and on my way I was passing fellow Ranger peer, who had this to say: “Hey Man, you won’t believe this, but I hear there is Captain that came to Ranger school way back and never completed it or re-cycled, somehow he got back and is with us here, right now!”
“What a frigging idiot, who the heck would be so friggin stupid to go completely through this bullshit…again…..”. “What a frigging idiot”. I laughed loudly and shouted at the top of my lungs, “YEAH WHAT A FRIGGING IDIOT”………..
I did not get Honor Graduate, the Ranger Senior Cadre found out I was there once in 1985, I got drilled real hard on how the HELL I got to come back. I somberly pointed out not a single form asked the question “Have you ever attended Ranger School prior.” Also that not once did anyone ever asked me and I never told them I had been there as a LT newly commissioned in the Army as a Quartermaster Officer….. So my punishment was that I could not get Honor Graduate, but I was allowed to be tabbed.
They changed the forms: They now ask “have you ever attended Ranger School prior?”