Updated: Apr 17
Author: Daniel Burnett
Burnett, Daniel “Black Hawk Ride” Camp Casey, Korea. October 2015. Photo.
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” –Arnold Schwarzenegger. Many people wander what it takes to become an Army Ranger. My journey into the 75th Ranger Regiment was not quick or pretty. There were plenty of times I wanted to be anywhere else, to do anything else. I was drawn by a sense of purpose, by a sense of duty. I have never held any entitlement for my accomplishments, I do not deem myself above anyone else. However, I have proven a great deal to myself about the human mind and the ability to endure, this was my journey. This story is designed to describe the pipeline to Ranger Regiment and highlight what it takes to be an Army Ranger.
My shoulders burned, and a dull pain crept in my shins and spine. I tried to catch the ever-escaping air back in my lungs. This day felt never ending, ‘This day will end,’ I reassured myself mentally. This is a phrase I had been telling myself for a long time, but this was a major test. I wanted to be a United States Army Ranger.
The rucksack continually tried to pull me towards the earth. I shrugged violently to ease the tension, which only brought moments of relief. When the rucksack resettled the pain returned with a greater vengeance. “What am I doing here?” I whispered to myself, following with an audible snap of my fingers. ‘Snap out of it, you are meant for this,’ I thought. This practice was a psychological trigger, when I thought or said a negative thought, I would follow will a trigger, like a snap, and follow up with a positive thought.
"Ruck March Training." Pic2Fly. Pic2Fly Find Online Images. Last edited 01 April 2013. Web. 08 June 2016.
How did I get there? It's because I watched that damn “Surviving the Cut” TV episode. I was only 17 years old when I watched the episode displaying the infamous Army Ranger. The course appeared rigorous and I wanted to know what it was like to be challenged. Next thing I knew, I was in a recruiter’s office signing papers and swearing oaths
A training pipeline is the process one must go through to achieve an end goal. This pipeline is specifically tailored to describe the time from the beginning of my army career to Ranger Regiment. A small note about the Regiment and post-training is mentioned, but there is many other courses and schools that I attended after arriving to Ranger Regiment. This listing does not include those.
Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training
Seems like only a short time after stepping in the recruiting office, I was in a bizarre new environment. I got yelled at for just about anything and everything. “Why are you looking at me PRIVATE, why are you breathing so loud PRIVATE,” pretty much anything related to existing as a human being was scrutinized and punished. “Beat your boots PRIVATE!” All new phrases to learn.
"Army Basic Training" Bing. Bing Image Search, Last edited 13 August 2015. Web. 07 June 2016.
The fun learning curve improved through AIT, where I learned the specifics of my job as a Forward Observer (FO). Forward Observers act as the eyes on the ground for coordinating indirect artillery and mortar fire, as well as close air support (CAS) from flying elements like attack helicopters and fighter jets.
Airborne School was my next stop and a different element, there was more emphasis on training and instruction, because jumping out of perfectly good airplanes is inherently dangerous. We spent many days practicing how to do a parachute landing fall (PLF) so that we did not break any bones when hitting the ground at a rate of 22 feet per second. Also, with static line parachuting, the jumps consist of many jumpers in the air and a safe handing of the static line to the jump master before exiting the aircraft door. The static line is hooked to an anchoring cable in low altitude jumps. The line is connected to the jumper’s parachute and when the jumper exits the door, the static line will deploy the parachute. Failure to hand off the slack in the static line could result in the jumper getting snagged by the static line. This sort of mishap usually results in bicep tears, but in rare cases can result in death. 'Make sure to hand off your static line,' I thought. 'For the T11 parachute give a six second count. If your main parachute does not open after that count, pull your reserve parachute.’ All these things were common knowledge and considerations for us to learn as jumpers. After five jumps I had my Airborne wings. However, the real challenge had yet to come.
Burnett, Daniel “Airborne School” Fort Benning, GA. March 2012. Photo.
Ranger Assessment and Selection Program
After Airborne school we formed up in a parking lot in front of the RASP (Ranger Assessment and Selection Program) recruiting office. We had our bags lined up at our feet. These were large bags that contained all the materials we had to live with for our time in training. We waited nervously for the RASP Cadre. You could feel the anticipation in the heavy air. What was I getting into?
A man that had the physical stature of a literal bear came ripping out of the building. He was about 6'7'' and at least 250 pounds in weight. His voice boomed over the nervous crowd, “Who wants to quit?!” Two hands where immediately raised by intimidated soldiers, and two were lost. “Go to my office quitters! Thanks for coming out, anybody else?!” The man bear roared over us. More people might have quit if it was not for shear fear of having any sort of interaction with this man. “Good,” he says eyeing the crowd. After a moment of instilling terror in us all, he walks back inside the building, leaving us to stand in strict formation.
After about an hour, a bus pulls up and he comes back tearing out of the building. “Get the F*** on the BUS!” As we scrambled to grab our gear, we bumped our heads into bags, other heads, and butts. We then proceeded to try to fit through the bus doors at the same time, like scared cattle. I can tell you it did not work very well. “GET ON THE F***ING BUS!” Bear man yelled impatiently. By some miracle, the man bear did not eat anyone, and we all made it unscathed.
The following days were challenging. The morning physical training was always tough, the course had a lot of criteria and rigorous tests to pass. There were days when I was tired, my shoulders burned, my joints ached, and I struggled to catch the ever-escaping air in my lungs. However, each day I would push forward and on the worst days I would think, ‘No matter what, this day will come to an end.' This is a phrase I had been telling myself many times. No matter the cost, I was determined to become a United States Army Ranger.
75th Ranger Regiment
I spent the next four years assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment. I participated in multiple combat deployments and many influential events. I later went to Ranger School, which is synonymous with leadership school, where I was truly tested again. The test of Ranger School and the 75th Ranger Regiment. I faced a challenging but rewarding career.
Burnett, Daniel “Awards Formation” Savannah, GA. August 2014. Photo.
Burnett, Daniel “Training Exercise” Fort Irwin, CA. August 2015. Photo.
I learned the true capability of the human mind, body, and spirit. This conclusion can be reached in many ways, it is not a limited lesson that can only be learned in the military. There are many ways to come to this conclusion, our struggles as human beings make us better if we allow them to. In this scenario, there was nothing special about me, I just chose to step forward and try. Beyond that it was all up to my ability to endure and adapt. The human mind is a miraculous thing, we all have something special in us. If anyone were to doubt their ability to endure heed my story, we all can endure, if we believe in ourselves. So, in conclusion, what you need to become an Army Ranger is an able body, a strong mind, and the ability to adapt.
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Want to Hear More?
Checkout Our Training Pipeline Episodes:
Part 1: https://youtu.be/QIOsrH0ddJk
Part 2: https://youtu.be/oPe9F6ucOVc
Part 3: https://youtu.be/cGyzmZbXC5k
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