Need help answering the question "Were you a Ranger?"

James Doe

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I served in the Army as a paratrooper (1984-1987), and have difficulty in answering a question that I’m sometimes asked, “Were you a Ranger?”

I tend to try and side-step the question, but I’m hoping you folks here can help me decide on what my answer is (or should be).


Here’s my story (the full, no BS version)

I enlisted at age 19 and scored pretty high on the ASVAB tests, and my recruiter was overjoyed when I told him that I wanted to enlist as 11B infantry, airborne, and Ranger (I think he was trying to fill infantry positions). My enlistment contract guaranteed me 11B “Unassigned Ranger”, which guaranteed that I would be sent to a Ranger Battalion upon completion of Infantry Basic and Airborne school.

I did OSUT at Ft. Benning, followed immediately by jump school and then was assigned to 3rd Bn/75th Inf.

Now, that was in Aug of 1985, when they were doing pre-fill for the 3rd Bn which was about to be re-activated in October. They didn’t really have an established RIP program, so we went through a 2 week version of RIP, and then, because no one quite knew what to do with us yet, we essentially went back through the various Basic Training ranges and courses, albeit now we were referred to as ‘Rangers’ and our NCO’s emphasized to the range cadre that we were NOT to be referred to as ‘basic trainees’ (which the range cadre had some difficulty remembering). At the time we were housed in Sand Hill, in (former) basic training barracks which were much nicer than the buildings at Harmony Church where I had gone through basic, but were still just metal racks side by side in a huge bay (although, in Sand hill, at least the latrine had stalls instead of just the toilets sitting side by side, which was a luxury).

In October, the Battalion went active, we all put on our black berets (Ranger berets were black at that time) and we were the 3/75th Ranger Battalion.

Now, I never bitched at the time, but when 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions were asked to send “their best NCOs” to 3rd Battalion, I suspect that they might have just unloaded their worst. I didn’t bitch then, but I’ll offer a more removed and impartial observation now, all these years later: It was pretty shitty. Really bad NCOs (not all, but quite a few), Basic Training accommodations, a re-run of basic training ranges and our positions for Ranger School were roughly a year (or more) distant. Pretty tough, but hey, that’s what Rangers were about, so no complaints. We did go through several of the Ranger School phases like Dahlonega, although nowhere near what the Ranger School conditions were (obvioudsly, we had it much easier).

I had found out during Basic Training that my dad had cancer, and by December, it was pretty clear that he wasn’t going to be around much longer. We were expecting leave at Christmas, but we learned that 1st and 2nd Battalions were getting Christmas leave, and we would be the Battalion on ‘stand-by’. At that time, it was well known that anyone dropping out of the Ranger Battalion were being reassigned to 2/187 INF in Panama to fill the spots because the entire 187th was going Airborne (there were a few soldiers who were washing out, and some just quitting). Those who quit were getting re-assigned to Panama and getting 30 days leave prior to going overseas. The guys who quit were assigned to the chow hall and were generally not mistreated, although they did surrender their berets and told to change out of their light-weight jungle fatigues (the Ranger uniform) and go back to wearing their BDUs.

I had a sit-down with my Platoon Leader and CO, and told them that I was thinking about dropping out. I weighed my options, which were to drop out of the Rangers, get leave to see my dad before he dies, and then be assigned to an overseas Airborne unit – in my eyes a pretty good deal (I did not mention my opinions about the SNAFU conditions of 3rd Batt to them, I saw no need, and, truthfully, those conditions didn’t really play any part in my decision).

To their immense credit, my PL and CO tried to talk me into staying, but ultimately understood my decision, and accepted it, and (I thought it odd at the time) they instructed me to stay in my light-weight jungles, and to continue to wear the Ranger beret until my departure date. It was obvious that I was being afforded a status different than those who had quit because they couldn't handle it. I was not assigned to KP duty with the others who had “opted out”.

So I submitted my request for transfer (with the help of my PL) and received orders to report to 2nd Bn (Airborne) 187th INF in Panama (after 30 days leave, which allowed me to see my dad one last time).

So, here’s my conundrum: Was I a Ranger? I have enormous respect for the Ranger tab, and even when I was in Battalion, we “un-tabbed Rangers” were always reverent around the Tabbed Rangers. Even though we were Rangers, until you went through the school, we (or at least I) wasn’t entirely comfortable thinking of myself as a ‘real’ Ranger. But, I was in the 3rd Ranger Battalion. We wore the scroll and were the men who would answer the call if the Rangers were sent anywhere (this was early 80’s, just after Grenada, so there was no deployments of Rangers until much later).

I've since learned, to my surprise, that there's some good-natured ribbing between "Battalion Rangers", and those tabbed Rangers who went through Ranger School but were not assigned to a Ranger Battalion.

So, there’s my question. I am proud of myself and my Airborne unit in Panama. We jumped into Honduras several times in the mid-eighties in support of the Contra rebels, we carried live ammo and drew combat pay while there, so I have no qualms about calling myself a paratrooper, an Infantryman, and a veteran, but if I answer ‘Yes’ to the question, “Where you a ranger?”, am I embellishing? Am I lying? Am I stealing valor?

I figured only Rangers can help me answer that question with a clear conscious.
 

Gunz

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That's interesting. Why don't you apply to get vetted here on Shadowspear, send in your paperwork and let the SF/SOF staff try to answer your question based on the documentation.

The Admins here are fair and knowledgeable.
 
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TLDR20

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That is an interesting question. I have no dog in the fight, and there are plenty of dudes who got RFS'ed that rightly claim they were Rangers. Doesn't seem like you shouldn't be able to
 

James Doe

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You just walked in the door with pretty much zero info in your intro. What @Ocoka is saying is that before you can haul much water here, you need to get vetted.
That is an interesting question. I have no dog in the fight, and there are plenty of dudes who got RFS'ed that rightly claim they were Rangers. Doesn't seem like you shouldn't be able to
Vetting is not mandatory but if you are going to be handing out advice, it will carry more weight with vetting

Whoops, there may be some confusion here . . .

My question is not pertaining to any kind of moniker or designation on this website, my question is related to how I would generally answer questions about the nature of my service to people (on the street) who tend to ask, as civilians often do to anyone who was airborne, "Oh, were you a Ranger?"

Because it's hard to explain to civilians the difference between someone who went through Ranger School, and someone who was at a Ranger Battalion but never went through the school, I wanted to get the opinion of the Ranger community as to how I should answer that question.

If you're looking at my question as my wanting to join this site with an SOF designation, then I definitely wasn't making myself clear. My bad.

(BTW, the video above is hilarious, and 3:04 actually does help me with my question)
 

Gunz

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I understood your question perfectly. My suggestion was to submit your paperwork to the Admins and let guys who've BTDT give you a definitive answer...rather than an opinion...regardless of whether or not you care to be vetted for the website. And the reason I responded to your question is that I had a similar experience with regard to a Marine Corps special operations initiative in Vietnam and wondered what its classification would be in today's terms.
 

Ranger Psych

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Keeping my hatchet sharp in the PNW
You were in batt, and only fucked up in my eyes by quitting in lieu of getting your family to do a red cross message so you could do emergency leave. Not sure if that was a thing back then though.

I will withhold welcoming you as such until you get vetted, though.
 
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