“Rangers Lead the Way!” The phrase is known across the United States military, and it is ingrained into the heads of every Ranger who has served in the 75th Ranger Regiment. It’s also hammered into the skulls of every person who has made it through the grueling United States Army Ranger School. It’s been repeated ever since Colonel Norman Cota said it first on D-Day in the second World War.
Despite this saying, if you head into Ranger circles then you’ll hear the same old complaints that you hear from any circle: the older guys complaining about how, “it isn’t what it used to be” or “they’ve really gone soft now.”
You’ll hear it among some Navy SEALs about their own, among journalists and film gurus, among politicians, and again, among some older Army Rangers. “As soon as I left, XYZ happened and the standards just went down the toilet.”
Is this true?
Absolutely not. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Part of what has made the 75th Ranger Regiment great is that it is always growing. It’s always moving forward and upward in its capabilities and its ever-expanding mission sets. Each generation is more lethal than the last.
There’s a reason why the Regiment has skyrocketed in its tactical capabilities over the last two decades, and they have not begun to wane in that regard. Those naysayers point at “evidence” when in fact the responsibilities continue to increase as time goes on.
Medicine is a good indicator of the rate of evolution in a military unit — how proficient are they at treating the most basic traumatic injuries? How advanced are their skills? I will tell you now that the trauma medicine I learned as a new Ranger was leaps and bounds ahead of those who came in even five years before me. And the Rangers five years after me? They were doing things I never realized someone on my level was capable of.
Rangers have a very self-critical mentality that is always pushing them to be better. Learning this was one of the most fundamentally beneficial traits I have received in my life, and it’s this trait that — while it does not make for a great quality of day-to-day life — is always propelling the 75th Ranger Regiment to the forefront of combat operations.
Yes, that means that the Rangers of today are likely more capable than I was when I was in, and I don’t have a chip on my shoulder about it. Not only do the reports indicate such, but I hope that I was a good enough leader to inspire at least a little improvement in the newer Rangers. I would ask any former leader who brought up a generation that “aren’t like they used to be” what they did wrong to create these new Rangers. I would ask this of any older generation condemning a younger one, in any field.
Not only are they pioneering fields that SOF units or light infantry units had not previously mastered, but they remain focused on honing the most simple, basic tasks as well. After all, the mass majority of combat operations are usually a very long series of simple tasks, some of which may be very demanding, but all of which must be done quickly and perfectly. Many-a unit have allowed themselves to slack on tasks that seem “beneath them,” and yet the 75th is constantly hammering them back in. That means tourniquet application. That means the basic fundamentals of shooting. That means changing NODs batteries without looking. Basic.
All in all, the Regiment “leads the way” in many fields, and when that “way” is forward, changes are to be expected, and those changes are usually what spur the criticisms. “Adapt and overcome” is another phrase that rings true in the minds of every Ranger, and newer guys — just like the elite Rangers of old — are adapting and overcoming to an ever-changing battlefield.
I’m not bashing the older generations of Rangers. They are the ones who laid this foundation; they are the ones who built an organization that, by definition, improves itself day after day, week after week, and year after year.
And this mentality explains why the Regiment is not only great today, but will be greater tomorrow.