Ranger Warrior - interview with Col. Clarke

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Ensuring the Legacy of the Ranger Creed

Colonel Richard D. Clarke Jr. was born in Stuttgart, Germany and raised in an Army family. He was commissioned in the infantry from the U.S. Military Academy in 1984.

Prior to assuming command of the 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga., Clarke commanded 1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Savannah, Ga.

Clarke has served as a rifle platoon leader, aide de camp for the assistant division commander of Maneuver and Battalion S-1 with 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry, 3rd Armored Division. Clarke has command companies at Fort Campbell in the 2/502 IN and the 101st Long Range Surveillance Detachment. As the LRSD commander, Clarke deployed to Operation Desert Storm. Other assignments include the 75th Ranger Regiment, regimental training officer and commander of the Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment; Company Commander, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Clarke served as battalion operations officer and executive officer with 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry (MECH), as the brigade executive officer and deputy commander for the 173rd Airborne Brigade; and commander 3-504 PIR at Fort Bragg, N.C. where he participated in combat deployments in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Clarke is a graduate of the Infantry Officers Basic and Advanced Course, the Army Command and General Staff College and recently completed a year of study at the National War College in Washington, D.C.

Clarke’s awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal (with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Meritorious Service Medal (with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal (with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Achievement Medal (with 7 Oak Leaf Clusters), National Defense Service Medal (with Bronze Star), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Afghanistan Service Medal. He has been awarded the Air Assault Badge, Combat Infantryman’s Badge (2nd Award), Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Military Freefall Parachutist Badge and the Ranger Tab.

Colonel Clarke was interviewed by SOTECH editor Jeff McKaughan.

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Q: Good morning Colonel. Why don’t we start with an overview of the command?

A: Thank you Jeff for this opportunity to talk with you.

The 75th Ranger Regiment’s mission is to plan and conduct joint special military operations in support of U.S. policy and objectives. The regiment is a direct action force capable of executing any special operations or light infantry mission requiring a mature, competent, highly disciplined and lethal force to ensure the precise application of combat power in a politically sensitive environment, day or night, in all weather conditions via land, sea or air.

We are a rapidly deployable and ready-strike force and can be anywhere in the world in 18 hours. We are a lethal, agile and flexible force and the largest special operations combat element capable of executing squad through regimental-sized operations under U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

The regiment is comprised of four battalions: 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment located at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment located at Fort Lewis, Wash., 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and the Regimental Special Troops Battalion, located along with the Regimental Headquarters at Fort Benning, Ga.

Q: When not involved in assault-type missions like the airborne assault on an airfield for example, what is the role and mission of the Rangers within the special operations community?

A: We are the only Ranger Regiment in the U.S. Army, and we are like no other unit in the Army. The regiment is chartered to perform conventional infantry operations and special operations on any battlefield and we can be anywhere in the world in 18 hours. All four battalions are prepared to execute short-duration strike operations or sustained combat operations and to rapidly transition between the two.

Q: Growth has been important to the Rangers the past year. What can you tell me about that growth in terms of overall numbers? What does the additional force structure give to you from a deployment point of view? Will the growth trend continue?

A: We have added 789 Rangers under our new force structure. This is the first time the regiment has grown since 1983. This force structure gives us an additional Ranger rifle company per battalion and a dedicated Special Troops Battalion. This allows the regiment a larger amount of flexibility to support our combat operations than we had in the past.

We are currently working on a new force design update to address changes in technology, capabilities and mission requirements.

Q: Rangers, like all special operators, are not created overnight, so with these increases how has that impacted your training regime as well as your ability to continue attracting the right candidates in the right numbers?

A: The 75th Ranger Regiment is in a unique position because every member of the regiment is a volunteer. As the regiment transforms to meet the needs of the 21st Century Army, we continue to recruit and retain outstanding Rangers. We are an all-volunteer unit; you have to submit a packet requesting to be assigned to the regiment, go through a board process, and graduate from one of two regimental assessment programs; the Ranger Indoctrination Program or the Ranger Orientation Program. We have had a number of men join the regiment because of the events of September 11, 2001. There is a former schoolteacher in the Special Troops Battalion, who is in his early 40s and was motivated to join the Army because of September 11. We have former lawyers, stockbrokers and many other professions who have joined the ranks of the Ranger Regiment in the recent past. I also have several third-generation Rangers who have followed in their fathers and grandfathers footsteps. Many men have given up high-paying careers to be a part of this organization.

Our training focuses on five capabilities: physical training, marksmanship, medical proficiency, small unit tactics and mobility. We adjust and conduct our training to meet with the current conditions on the battlefield. As a result of this focus, we are a highly skilled, disciplined, flexible and adaptive unit. We are capable of highly complex, decentralized operations, leveraging “state of the art” technology on any mission in any terrain.

Q: What exactly is the selection process to become a Ranger?

A: The selection process for initial entry soldiers starts with an Army recruiter, after signing a contract to join the 75th Ranger Regiment, the soldier must first complete basic training, advanced individual training, and the Basic Airborne Course. Once they have successfully completed that training, they are assigned to the Ranger Indoctrination Program [RIP]. After completing the 28-day course, which focuses on basic rifle marksmanship, physical fitness, basic soldier skills and combat life saver training, graduates are assigned to one of our four battalions.

For senior NCOs and officers, a candidate must have demonstrated exceptional performance in his MOS or basic branch before he can apply for assignment to the regiment. Once these candidates make it past the screening process, they must complete the Ranger Orientation Program [ROP], which is 21 days long. ROP emphasizes familiarization with the standards and traditions of the Ranger Regiment, as well tactical operations and the use of equipment employed by the regiment. During RIP and ROP, students are required to successfully complete intensive physical fitness, mental and psychological testing.

Q: Over the past few years, many of the Special Forces Groups have become more mobile with vehicles like the GMV as they become more common. Traditionally, the Rangers have been light infantry with small numbers of vehicles. Have the Rangers become more vehicle-oriented as well? What are the vehicles of choice and are there any types of vehicles that you would like to acquire more of?

A: The Ranger Regiment prides itself on being the most flexible, light infantry unit in the world. We have always had some sort of mobility platforms. Currently we field GMV-R to Rangers at home station. Our Rangers are also trained on and use during combat operations, the M-114 up-armored GMV, Stryker infantry combat vehicle, and multiple other special mission vehicles.

Q: What can you tell me about the use of Strykers within the command? Is there a role for heavier armored vehicles in the Rangers? How about MRAP class vehicles?

A: There is a role for every vehicle in the military inventory for the Ranger Regiment. We pride ourselves on taking what is available and using it to accomplish the mission.

Q: The Rangers have traditionally been a testing and proving ground for new weapon and tactical systems before they go into service—either for SOF or the big Army. Are there any recent and current experiences with new systems that you can share?

A: We are currently testing numerous pieces of equipment. One is a new grenade launcher sight designed by Rangers that is very promising. Initial tests have shown it to be very accurate and have quick target acquisition.

Rangers have been involved in the SOCOM Ground Mobility Visual Augmentation Systems or GM-VAS. This will be a system of systems—short range-drivers, medium range, long range—with the long range FLIR ball being the first to field. The system will allow Rangers to identify targets beyond 10 kilometers without having to exit the vehicle. We have been involved in requirements development and operational testing since the program started.

Rangers are currently involved in testing a 360 camera system for PM FLIR. PM FLIR is installing 360-degree cameras with night vision capability on to our training fleet of Strykers. Rangers will test these systems CONUS and if they provide adequate situational awareness to the Rangers inside the Stryker, the regiment will move to install on all Strykers we employ in the CENTCOM AO.

Rangers are continually testing new pieces of Ranger’s Kit—as technology and materials continue to improve Ranger’s test on a regular basis: socks, boots, gloves, eye protection, hydration systems, protective pads and carrying pouches and packs.

These are just some of the items that form the Kit of the Regiment—as better items are found through testing, the recommendation is made by the staff to the Regimental CSM to replace or add new items to the Kit of the Regiment.

Q: Are UAVs are part of your inventory?

A: Yes, the regiment is currently in the process of transitioning to and receiving training on the Raven B UAV. This is our only organic UAV platform; we receive most of our UAV–ISR support from other headquarters to utilize platforms with greater endurance and range than our small rucksack portable Raven Bs.

Q: Looking ahead over the next 12 months, what are some of the challenges that the command faces and how are they being addressed?

A: As the regiment has developed increased capabilities, we have begun to recruit Rangers from military occupational specialties not historically associated with the Ranger Regiment. It is an educational process, both on the part of the regiment and those soldiers we are recruiting, on how to best attract and integrate those soldiers with unique capabilities into the regiment.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: The 75th Ranger Regiment has been actively engaged in the global war on terror since October 2001, and Ranger battalions are on their 11th deployment. Since the beginning of the GWOT, the 75th Ranger Regiment has conducted combat operations with almost every deployed special operations, conventional and coalition force during operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Rangers have participated in a wide range of diverse operations that include airborne and air assaults into Afghanistan and Iraq, mounted infiltrations behind enemy lines, complex urban raids and rescue operations. Elements of the Ranger Regiment are continuously engaged in sustained combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. These men are literally the best soldiers the United States has to offer, and I am honored to be their commander.

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