The U.S. Army Rangers are a storied group of elite warriors. They have conducted legendary missions, but for every met objective you hear about on the news, there are hundreds that go unseen and unheard. It takes a particular breed of person to earn the scroll and tab, yet if you were to run into two Rangers on the street, you’d likely find that they are also quite unique from one another.
Coffee or Die asked seven veterans of the 75th Ranger Regiment one question: What does it mean to be an Army Ranger? Answers varied from the practical to the poetic, from long to short. Some of these Rangers are older, some have recently ETSed back into the civilian world, some were officers and others enlisted, and all come from wildly different backgrounds.
Jesse Gould was a Mortar Platoon Section Leader in 1/75, serving from 2010 to 2014. He is now the CEO at the Heroic Hearts Project, a nonprofit that connects military veterans struggling with mental trauma to ayahuasca therapy retreats.
An Army Ranger embodies the rare individual that runs toward danger and difficulty — that unique personality trait that chooses to face a challenge head-on and under its own terms. This continues to be one of the main concepts that I continually strive to live up to in my civilian life. Am I sitting passively as life goes by or am I running straight at it and taking control?
The beginning of the first stanza of the Ranger Creed states, “Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger,” and while in Regiment, one often hears that everyone around you volunteered three times to be there. I sincerely respected this fact. Everyone around me volunteered to make their lives harder and exposed themselves to more danger.
Kris “Tanto” Paronto
Tanto served in B Co, 2/75. He was a contractor working for the CIA during the Benghazi attack; since then he has become an author and public speaker, and he runs a tactical training organization called Battleline Tactical. His latest book, “The Patriot’s Creed: Inspiration and Advice for Living a Heroic Life,” is now available.
I enlisted into the Army with a RIP contract because I believed being a 75th Ranger required extreme mental and physical toughness. The threat of not making it because I couldn’t cut it drove me to join, and it pushed me to stay strong when things got tough. Not only did being a part of the Ranger Regiment require physical aptitude, it also required attention to detail beyond your average Soldier, Marine, Airman, or Sailor.
Being a Ranger meant I could accept and withstand immense pain and discomfort — and if you couldn’t, then you were shown the door. Standards were enforced and maintained! I’d look to my side and see my peers who were withstanding the same physical and mental anguish on a daily basis. Our superiors weren’t afraid to RFS (Release for Standard, to be expelled from the Regiment) a Ranger who couldn’t cut it. That drove us to withstand more pain and suffering than we ever knew we could.
Mental toughness is truly what I admire most about Batt Boys — each one that I served with was mentally tough, and it pushed me to be stronger and better.
Being a Ranger also means being proficient in all manner of weapons and tactics, and I think most in the SOCOM community know and respect that. That’s why I’m always proud to tell anyone who has served in conventional or Special Operations units that I was a Batt Boy. I know I can pick up any small arms or be introduced to a small unit tactic and eventually become exceptionally proficient at it.
I can honestly say that the things I learned as a Ranger got me through not only the serious adversity I faced while in Battalion, but also afterward when my team and I were left behind in Benghazi, as well as the other years I worked and deployed as a contractor. Back at home, it pushed me through trials and tribulations in my personal life.
Being a Ranger means being funny, tough, hard, relentless, disciplined, free thinking, intelligent, loving, angry, and even unstable at times — and most of all it means being the best. RLTW!
Karl Monger was a Captain in 1/75 in the early 1990s. He is the founder and executive director of GallantFew Inc., of which the Darby Project is part. He also serves as a member of his town council.
To me, being a US Army Ranger means being someone who lives by the Ranger Creed. Upholding the honor of the Regiment demands action as a veteran. It means always taking the harder right over the easier wrong. It means being a leader in my community. It means serving in other ways. It means always leading by example. Accepting the fact that my country expected me to move further, faster and fight harder means accepting the fact that I have physical and perhaps emotional injuries as a result. I won’t bitch about them, I will find the resources to heal and overcome them. Never failing my comrades means preventing my Ranger buddies from isolating, encouraging and challenging them to find purpose and continue to grow. I will continue to behave gallantly and courteous to those I defended. I won’t look down on someone who didn’t serve because I chose to serve. I will never surrender, I will never give up. If I lose purpose, my purpose becomes finding a new purpose. No matter what, I will always display the intestinal fortitude expected of a Ranger.
General Darby said when he wrote to the Rangers as he left command: “…But above all, you will bring back with you many personal characteristics enriched by your experiences with the Rangers. In whatever field or profession you may follow, I know that you will continue as civilians with the same spirit and qualities you demonstrated as a Ranger. Your aggressiveness and initiative will be tempered to adjust to civilian life with little difficulty. In your hearts as in mine, you will always have that feeling…of being a Ranger always!”
Few Rangers become the RCO [Regimental Commander] or RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major], or even a BC [Battalion Commander] or CSM [Command Sergeant Major]. Most leave the Regiment because of an event. They may have a wound or injury that prevents them from being a Ranger. They may become discouraged because of a toxic leader. They may mourn the unbearable loss of a comrade. They may misbehave, get a DUI. These negative departures can create shame, regret, guilt, and anger that cause the Ranger to avoid the community that forged him into who he is. Taken to the extreme, this Ranger may believe he is a failure, that he is broken or unworthy. The strong mind — the willpower that drove him (or her) to overcome adversity — may turn against him, weighing him down and sentencing him to a life far below that which he should be achieving. We, the Ranger community, have to link up with these Rangers, encourage them, kick them in the ass when needed, and get them back on a positive azimuth. We need them to be leaders in their communities — the civilian world is screaming for positive leadership.
A retired Ranger 1SG once told me “leadership is a life sentence.” I had another tell me the only honorable way to leave the Regiment is in a pine box.
Wayne Capacillo was a Ranger from C Co, 3/75 from 2010 to 2014. After leaving as a team leader, he achieved his masters degree and works in insurance. He is also an athlete, having recently completed two ultra-marathons.
Being a Ranger means constantly working toward a mission, giving 100 percent and then some. We give every portion of our lives for our mission, and failure is not an option. We rest, recover, fight, train, eat, party … over and over, and it all affects our overall performance on our mission. Our mission is our life, and our life is our mission.
This is the struggle that many face when they transition out of the military and their mission (being the best Ranger you can be) is gone. We have to find a new overall mission or learn to break our “drive” into multiple smaller goals/missions. If we can take our Ranger focus into the civilian, we’ll all be successful in any field we enter.
Dave Eubank, the son of Christian missionaries in Thailand, was an Army Ranger officer in 2/75 before heading over to Special Forces, leaving the military as a major. He became the founder and leader of the Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian service movement for oppressed ethnic minorities of all races and religions in the war zones of Burma, Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, and Sudan.
To me, a Ranger is someone who will do all he can to help others no matter the cost. A Ranger leads the way and will find a way and persist no matter the obstacles. A Ranger is a team player, leaves no one behind, and shares what he has. A Ranger will endure hardship, injury, and danger to accomplish the mission even if he is the only one left. A Ranger doesn’t give up, and he surrenders only to God and love.
A Ranger will fight if needed, but he doesn’t hate his enemies and prays for them to change, knowing the difference between justice and revenge — and that difference is love. Love will keep him sane and free, in and out of combat. A Ranger can kill when needed, is good at it, but killing does not own him. He is humbled by the grace that covers his own sins and weaknesses and is inspired by his higher purpose and so is a happy and free warrior.
A Ranger can navigate well and understands terrain. A Ranger is prepared, dependable, always learning, disciplined, and well-trained in all the basics of soldiering — and practices them. A Ranger is physically fit, able to move far and fast. A Ranger is not led by comfort, fear, or pride. A Ranger is led by love, by his mission, and by God.
Leo Jenkins was a medic in C Co, 3/75. He has since become known for his nonfiction writing and war poetry, including the books “On Assimilation” and “In Love… &War: The Anthology of Poet Warriors.”
A Ranger is a four-hundred-year tradition of non-linear warfare.
A Ranger is Francis Marion, William Darby, and Rick Merritt.
A Ranger is cunning with mind and careless with back.
A Ranger is a 35-pound rucksack. (traveling 12-minute miles, 2 hours before the sun shows its lazy face.)
A Ranger is the jab and overhand right.
A Ranger is the fight.
A Ranger is early mornings and late nights.
A Ranger is skin that bleeds, the same as you and me,
yet still commands fear in the heart of the enemy.
And a Ranger is tenacity, unending.
A Ranger is loyalty;
to his brothers, duty, craft, and country.
A Ranger is unwavering dedication,
with a cocky grin,
and two black eyes at Monday morning formation.
A Ranger is no hooligan, brigand, nor thief,
but some of the best I’ve known were all three.
Though generations change
One thing remains
A Ranger is,
And forever will be,
The faithful few, for the sake of the many.
Matthew “Griff” Griffin
Griff is the co-founder of Combat Flip Flops in Kabul, Afghanistan. He is a West Point graduate and a veteran of the 75th Ranger Regiment, participating in three deployments to Afghanistan and one to Iraq.
Airfield gangster. Professional kidnapper. World class planner.