So You Want to Be an Army Ranger…

Vincent "Rocco" VargasSo you want to be an Army Ranger? Good on ya. The Ranger MOS remains one of the greatest army jobs in demand. Rocco (Vincent Vargas) gets a lot of emails about this, so he thought he’d address it in an article.

This story originally ran in July 2015. Updated: 5/31/19.


 

So you want to be an Army Ranger?
If you’ve ever asked questions like, “Should I join the military?”, or “How do I join the Ranger Regiment?” then this article is for you.

Rather than trying to answer all the individual emails and messages asking, “How can I be a Ranger”? I thought it would be easier to answer with a post that can be shared among aspiring Rangers. Hopefully, the information stays current.

In the Army, you will hear the term Ranger thrown around a lot. If someone has been to Ranger School and earns a tab, they are Ranger qualified.

Some of those soldiers call themselves Rangers, and others who don’t really know better call them that also. That isn’t completely wrong. But in the Special Operations community, those men aren’t considered Rangers, they are considered “Tabbed”. They graduated from a difficult sixty-something day school, which is a respectable accomplishment, but it’s not the same as being tabbed and scrolled. In this article, I will explain how to become a 75th Special Operations Army Ranger, not how to just become “ranger qualified”.

I recently received this email:

Not sure why I thought of this today and you probably don’t remember, but Cole Range was a bitch! I remember it was especially hard on me mentally. I must have broke down like a dozen times over there. Anyways, we were all out in the road in the front leaning rest and the RI with the Doberman from HELL (Young? Fader maybe?) [it was SFC Blum] calls an amnesty period. Maybe 5 guys fell out. He said just one more drop and we’ll end this smoke session. He promised hot chow and a shower. Well I just about stood up.

Seriously, I was over this shit at this moment.

Right before I stood up, I kinda did a quick scan. I looked to my left and just a couple rows over, you had this insane fucking smile on your face. I know it was you because of that chin! You mumbled something under your breath. It was “don’t fucking quit” or maybe ” don’t fucking do it”. I said to myself “this fucking guy does not give one single fuck!” You continued laughing under your breath. And I thought, well i don’t give a fuck either. If this guy can SMILE while taking this punishment, how much of a pussy would I be if I threw it in here.

Well turns out, I would go on to adopt this philosophy through every fucking school, every grueling march, every smoke session, basically every time it sucked. I know through your posts that you are battling some shit with your kids. It physically hurts to know a Ranger buddy is going through this. I sincerely hope it works out. Wether [sic] you meant it or not, that moment in Cole Range was responsible for a very big part of who I believe myself to be to this very day. I can’t thank you enough. Just wanted to share that. Hope it was cheesy enough. Let me know if there is anything I can help with. Seriously, just let me know.

I got that email from a buddy years after Ranger school, while I was going through some hard times. Imagine that. I never knew just staying motivated had an effect on another guy going through the same hell.

Vincent Vargas in Iraq with Two Seven Five (2/75 Ranger Battalion)
Vincent Vargas in Iraq with “Two Seven Five” (2/75 Ranger Battalion). 

Cover photo: 75th Ranger Regiment soldier pulls security during pursuit of a Taliban commander in the Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, 2010 (Combat Camera Afghanistan, Spc. Jeff Collet).

How to become a Ranger.

Earn the Ranger MOS

But let’s get back to the mechanics of becoming a Ranger.

First thing: you need to find a recruiter.

When I joined the military I wasn’t completely sure it was what I wanted to do. I made the decision to do something difficult and test myself. I didn’t score high enough to go SF so Ranger was my only option (at that time I believe it was called a RGR contract, now called an Option 40). At first, they didn’t want to give it to me. They said it wasn’t available so I had to choose something else and put in to be a Ranger later. Well, I wasn’t in any rush so I told them never mind and took my ass back to the bar. Wouldn’t you know it, a few days later they found an 11X RGR contract for me. I have noticed this to be the pattern in recent years while I’ve been helping other young studs get their Option 40 contracts.

Vincent "Rocco" Vargas, an Army Ranger
The recruiters weren’t too helpful getting Rocco into the Rangers initially, but he was insistent. He eventually got the 11X RGR” contract he wanted (now called an Option 40 Contract).

This is from a recruiter I trust:

Option 40 and other special options are managed by the ROC (Recruiting Operations Center) and only so many are allotted per quarter. Recruiters cannot get option 40 on their own unless it pops up in the MOS reservation system. If an applicant wants option 40 and the recruiter says it is not in the system the recruiter’s first action should be to call the ROC.

 

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When you meet with the recruiter, understand that they are the lowest level of recruiting and don’t make rules and regulations for enlistments. A good recruiter will work for and with you to get what you want. If you are a dick to the recruiter keep in mind that they don’t need you, you need them. Also if you feel your recruiter is not doing everything they can to get you what you want, contact another recruiter to verify.

It is your right to ask for proof of qualifications/disqualifications and availability of any MOS, at any time.

Be upfront with your recruiter about your entire history. If you hide something and it comes up later not only are you putting your future career on the line but also his.

Army Ranger TIC (Troops In Contact).
Troops (Rangers) In Contact: elements of a security patrol under fire in Zabul Province, Jeldak District, Afghanistan, Dec. 27, 2009. (Defense Imagery Photo/DIMOC). 

Option 40 Contract

How to qualify for Option 40

1) You must be a High school graduate or have the following:

  • a. trade/vocational school GED with letter from the school stating that 675 clock hours of course instruction have been completed.
  • b. GED with a 50 or higher in the ASVAB
  • d. foreign high school completion certificate with NACES certificate of evaluation and credit to count in the United States. (citizens of US territories exempt as they are US citizens)
  • e. associate or higher level degree by a nationally accredited university.
  • f. HOME SCHOOL Diploma

2) Must be a US citizen by either birth or naturalization. A green card makes you eligible to join the military but DOES NOT allow you to hold a security clearance, thus making it impossible to become a Ranger at enlistment (eligible once you are enlisted and have become a citizen).

Members of an Afghan-international security force pull security while in the Washir district after intelligence indicated militant activity in the Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 8.
Members of an Afghan-international security force pull security while in the Washir district after intelligence indicated militant activity in the Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 8, 2010 (Combat Camera Afghanistan, Spc. Jeff Collett).

 

A member of the Afghan-international security force prepares to exfil after the security force captured a Taliban sub-commander and two other militants in the Chak-e Wardak district, Wardak province, Afghanistan, March 14.
A member of the Afghan-international security force prepares to exfil after the security force captured a Taliban sub-commander and two other militants in the Chak-e Wardak district, Wardak province, Afghanistan, March 14, 2010 (Combat Camera Afghanistan, Spc. Jordan Huettl).

Army Ranger ASVAB Score ⚠️

3) Must score a minimum of 50 of the ASVAB with a GT score of 110. THE HIGHER THE BETTER. The GT score may be waived by 2 points (108), the ASVAB score may not. It is in your best interest to study. Reference materials are available online or at public libraries. The Army also has a study site, www.march2success.com.

4) Must be physically qualified for both military service and airborne duty.

5) Must be legally qualified to enter the service without a waiver. Waivers are not open to Option 40.

7) Must remain physically and morally qualified to ship to training. Any changes in your moral, mental or physical qualifications could see you lose Option 40 or even be discharged prior to going to basic training.

An Afghan-international security force targeted a compound in the Gulistam district after intelligence indicated militant activity in the Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 8.
An Afghan-international security force targeted a compound in the Gulistam district after intelligence indicated militant activity in the Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 8, 2010 (Combat Camera Afghanistan, Spc. Daniel Petty).

Not everyone is going to get Option 40 or be qualified at the time of enlistment. It’s your responsibility to study, not the recruiter’s responsibility to make you. The ASVAB and what you score is completely on you. The higher you score the better your options are of getting Option 40.

If you need any waivers for moral, medical or physical issues you are not qualified for Option 40. This is not to deter you from enlisting or wanting to become a Ranger. If you enlist with a waiver and can’t go Option 40, take it in stride. Enlist as infantry and work hard to get to Ranger school later in your career.

When enlisting there is no “magic secret” to getting Option 40. Stay ON your recruiter to continuously check availability by calling the ROC. Recruiters work with a lot of people and are always busy; not saying that they will forget about you but do not go more than a week without communicating with them. If you find out you are disqualified don’t throw a fit. The recruiter can only do so much, they have regulations to follow and won’t put their career in jeopardy to bend the rules.

The attrition rate through basic training is very low, but coming out of basic if you do not push yourself physically to get the best PT score possible they can cancel your airborne school slot which in turn cancels your Ranger school slot. It is in your best interest to work out and push yourself hard as soon as you decide you want an Option 40.

Members of an Afghan-international security force pull security while in the pursuit of a Taliban commander. During the search the assault force captured a Taliban commander, responsible for multiple attacks against coalition forces and Afghan citizens in the Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 8.
Members of an Afghan-international security force pull security while in the pursuit of a Taliban commander. During the search the assault force captured a Taliban commander, responsible for multiple attacks against coalition forces and Afghan citizens in the Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 8, 2010 (Combat Camera Afghanistan, Spc. Jeff Collett). 

Army Ranger Physical Fitness

God I wish I could be in the shape I was in after basic training. Here is the deal. You will lose you fitness while in Airborne. Fact! You will now have weekends off, shorter days and freedom to head to the mall to spend money you don’t have. This is when it’s most critical to stay in shape! You have to find time to run, swim, and PT on your own. Pull ups! Everyday! In airborne they made us do pull-ups when we entered and left the company area (Delta Rock!!… but I don’t think all the companies do that). When we were done with airborne and took the RIP (now RASP – Ranger Assessment and Selection Program) PT test most my buddies failed the pull-ups and off they went!

Stay motivated through out this whole process. You have to find that one thing that motivates you and hold it close. I had a one year old daughter. She was my REASON. I always imagined her watching me walk across a graduation stage. I kept that vision in my head through everything. She was who I saw at the back of my mind when I was struggling, felt weak or was discouraged.

I know I know, you’ve heard all the rumors. Well, they’re all true! Behind those walls you might die! RASP is the place where men crumble and make up reasons why they quit because they aren’t man enough to just say, “I am not ready.” Egos are tested. Nobody cares what your blood line is. “My father was a Ranger and was Special Forces, and I read Blackhawk Down“. Sorry to say, none of that matters when you are in the pit at Cole Range.

Army Rangers from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment participating in MLAT (Multi-Lateral Airborne Training) nighttime airfield seizure exercise, 2015. Photo TSgt Jorge Intriago, 169FW.
Army Rangers from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment participating in MLAT (Multi-Lateral Airborne Training) nighttime airfield seizure exercise, 2015. Photo TSgt Jorge Intriago, 169FW.

 

U.S. Army Ranger from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment participating in MLAT (Multi-Lateral Airborne Training) nighttime airfield seizure exercise
A U.S. Army Ranger from 1/75 participating in MLAT (Multi-Lateral Airborne Training) nighttime airfield seizure exercise, 2015. Photo TSgt Jorge Intriago, 169FW.

Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP)

Get through RASP…

The Ranger Assessment and Selection Program or RASP1, formerly known as RIP, is an extensive 8-week selection course for soldiers out of AIT, Airborne School, or those soldiers coming from their initial duty station. Ranks E1-E5 will endure physical training, corrective training, reduced sleep, high stress, MRE’s, field training, land navigation, classroom testing, medical training, 2-6 mile runs, 6-12 mile road marches, pistol/carbine marksmanship, cramped quarters, and the infamous “Cole Range”.

RASP 1 is designed to test the physical and mental toughness of soldiers under high-stress situations. Those who cannot adjust or adapt to physical punishment, mental rigors, and high stress usually wash out. Quite a few students are dropped from the course because of injuries or they simply quit.

To prepare yourself, focus on your PT. Running, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and road marching. A PT test with a score of 80% or higher in your age group is required. In addition, candidates must conduct a 5 mile run in 40 min or less, and a 12-mile road march with a 35 lb ruck (before water sources) in 3 hrs or less. The ability to think outside of the box and quickly adapt with critical thinking is key.

Essentially the instructors are looking for the ability to lead or the potential to lead. That’s what their job is designed for. They are not going to make it easy. The best advice is to not talk to them unless you have to. They are not your friend.

At all.

Oh yeah. Brush up on your Ranger history. And KNOW your fucking Airborne Ranger in the Sky. Go ahead and try to show up not knowing that. That’ll go over well…

 

Afghan International Security Force patrol of Army Rangers heads to a compound in the Chak-e Wardak province, March, 2010.
Afghan-International Security Force patrol of Army Rangers heads to a compound in the Chak-e Wardak province, March, 2010 (Combat Camera Afghanistan, Spc. Jordan Huettl).
Army Rangers with Afghan International Security Force secure a compound in the Gulistam district, Farah Province, Afghanistan (Combat Camera Afghanistan, Spc. Daniel Petty).

 

Ranger Battalion

Survive BATTALION:

The pain isn’t over yet! Ranger Battalion is the next big challenge. It’s like being the new kid in school. No one really knows what you’re worth. Are you going to cut it as a Ranger or are you going to eventually be released for standards (RFS’ed)? So your group of 20 something guys who made it to battalion from RASP will quickly become 10, 8, or maybe even 5 within a year. Maybe your experience won’t be that dramatic, but it isn’t common for all your buddies from RASP make it through their original enlistment because they fall prey to things like drinking, fighting, marrying a stripper who spends their money and fucks up their credit or being a PT no go. It’s very easy to get caught up in the fun part of living in the barracks but that can also be the cause of your walk of shame.

Truth is, even most badass CSM’s got in trouble at least once during their careers but I wouldn’t bank on that as the best route to take. I think being married at the time saved me from getting myself in trouble. Truth is I love to drink and have a good time. I always seemed to miss out on all the fun Mat and the boys had while I was home changing diapers.

A blast from the past: Rocco during his tenure with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
A blast from the past: Rocco during his tenure with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

Deploy with your Ranger Battalion

Get through a few deployments:

Once you’ve put in some credible service for your platoon you start to build your reputation. You could be a fast tracking stud or a shitbird. You don’t want to be a shitbird. If you are a high speed the rest of your career can be an easy one. You will still have shitty details but you’ll be given some responsibility and earn some trust, which is always a good feeling. But if you suck, well you’ll be living in what I remember as HELL, or at least what I imagined it would be. Your name is called for every shitty detail or just because you need corrective training. I can’t speak of the things done to me at the risk of them having repercussions, but I can tell you what I have done. And it’s not pretty. I have no shit ripped Soldiers off the ropes, making them fall a good eight feet. Then I yelled at them to get back up the rope so I could rip them off again.

Ranger School

Earn your Tab.

Ranger School is tough if you are dumb and even tougher if you are smart!

The course is different for everyone. For me it wasn’t the hardest course until I got hurt, then I had to depend on my Ranger Buddies to pick me up when I was down (literally).

Patrols were easy if you had good team leaders.

Weight was heavy but I don’t believe they were 120lbs like some claim.

Food was scarce. That killed me…

Sleep was minimal. You tend to do weird shit when you’re sleepy.

If you really want to be successful in Ranger School, know your squad, find what makes them tick and motivate the fuck out of them to stay awake. In the end your buddies earn your tab for you. If you are an asshole you won’t get peered out. Trust me! If you are great at rucking carry some weight for your boys who need a break, in exchange for food. If you are a sleepy ranger make sure you tell your ranger buddy to keep an eye out for you while to take a quick nap. You guys are a team. Use them as such. This is the place to hone those Ranger leadership skills that will follow you your whole career. And always find time to crack a joke or two, that’s the only thing you can do when shit just sucks!

Hopefully, this article answered most your questions and will help you get prepared for your attempt at being an Army Ranger. The road is a long and painful one. Get ready for the suck!

-Rocco

A Ranger from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, on patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2011.
A Ranger from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, on patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2011 (55th Combat Camera, Sgt. Brian Kohl).

Read more Advice for the Noble Profession of Arms

Army Ranger in Afghanistan.

 

Learn the history of the Army Rangers.

The 75th Ranger Regiment has a storied history, but there were other Army Rangers before them!

 

 

Vincent "Rocco" Vargas
Got a smoke?

About Vincent Vargas

 

Rocco served four years with the 75TH Ranger Regiment. During his tenure with the Regiment, he did three combat deployments to Iraq, serving in every billet on rifle, crew-served and anti-tank teams. After his AD time was up Rocco went on to become a USAR Drill Sergeant at Ft. Sill. He then went on to join the US Border Patrol and eventually volunteered for BORSTAR (Border Patrol Search and Rescue Special Operations Unit). He later worked as a SOG Operator attached to a BORTAC team, medic and combatives instructor, ultimately leaving to become a vetrepreneur after a lengthy period of honorable service. He is the author of Light the Fuse and a part of the FX Networks Mayans MC television drama series.

Rocco is married with four kids (two girls, two boys) – among whose young ranks are boxers, MMA fighters, baseball players, volleyball players and assorted other warriors in training. An international celebrity on par with such greats as Jack Elam and Zac Efron’s little brother, he’s basically our own tattooed combat veteran Hasselhoff.

Follow him on Instagram at @vincent.rocco.vargas (his podcast is at @vinnyroc). He’s online at VinnyRoc.com.

One thought on “So You Want to Be an Army Ranger…

  • July 25, 2015 at 2:14 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for the details, and thanks for your service!

    Reply

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