Articles

21 photos showing the life of an elite US Army Ranger

The 75th Ranger Regiment is an elite airborne light infantry unit, falling under the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Though headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Ranger regiment has three active Ranger battalions and one Special Troops Battalion, stationed at different bases in the U.S.

The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Ranger Battalions have approximately 600 men in each of its ranks, according to American Special Ops.

With an increasingly fast op-tempo in a post-9/11 world, Rangers have stood out amongst their special ops peers as the experts in pulling off raids. "On multiple occasions, my teammates pulled terrorists out of their beds and flex cuffed them before they even woke up. That's how precise Rangers have become in this war," one Ranger wrote on the website SOFREP.

But before any soldier can make it within the regiment, they need to go through some of the toughest training the military has to offer.

For most soldiers, that training pipeline begins with the Ranger Assessment and Selection Programs. Once complete, soldiers will be assigned to the regiment and be authorized to wear its distinctive tan beret.

While they are then authorized to wear the unit scroll of the 75th, they still need to attend the 8.5 week Ranger School if they want to earn the coveted Ranger Tab.

The Army calls the 61-day Ranger School "the most physically and mentally demanding leadership school" it has to offer.

According to American Special Ops, students train for about 20 hours per day on two (or fewer) meals while sometimes carrying upwards of 90 pounds of gear. By the end of the course, they will hike or patrol approximately 200 miles.

All will learn to memorize the Ranger Creed, an oath which embodies the elite soldiers' ethos of never leaving a comrade behind, to never surrender, uphold Ranger history, and always complete the mission.

The Regiment traces its lineage back to World War II. They were held in special regard after the Normandy landings, when 225 Rangers scaled cliffs at Pointe Du Hoc on June 6, 1944 under intense enemy fire. "The Rangers pulled themselves over the top," President Ronald Reagan said of the men, in 1984. "And in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe."

Rangers have distinguished themselves on many battlefields since then, to include places like Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Somalia, and most recently, Iraq and Afghanistan.


Rangers in Vietnam

Like other special operations units, Rangers yield a variety of skills, weapons, and can conduct operations in different environments. They can hit a target on land,

from the air ...

... and out of the water.

Beyond formal schools like Ranger, Airborne, and Mountain Warfare, soldiers in the Regiment are often practicing their skills or taking part in real-world exercises when they are not deployed.

Among its most recent high-profile missions, the 75th Ranger Regiment played a larger part in overthrowing the Taliban in 2002, and the invasion of Iraq.

Rangers jumping into Afghanistan near Kandahar in 2002. (Photo: Youtube/screenshot)

They also helped rescue Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch, who was taken prisoner of war during the invasion.

Though the Ranger Regiment is composed entirely of men, a number of women currently going through Ranger School who are poised to graduate may someday change that composition.

That possibility is likely a long way off. But one thing is absolutely clear: The 75th Ranger Regiment, in keeping with its creed, will continue to lead the way into battle.

NOW DON'T MISS: The history of the U.S. Navy SEALs >

History

This pilot shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor in his pajamas

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it's hot on the work site, it's important to stay cool. If it's hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army's aircraft on the ground.

Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol' martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A's fuselage.

Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

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