From Airmen to Rangers: RAC First step to coveted Ranger tab

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
As one of the most physically and mentally demanding schools in the U.S. military, the U.S. Army Ranger School builds leaders through its strenuous training. For Airmen seeking to attend Ranger School, they must first make it through the Ranger Assessment Course.

The RAC is a 15-day course that is designed to test and develop an Airman's ability to lead troops under heavy emotional, mental and physical stress, as well as to determine if they are a strong candidate for Ranger School.

The RAC is open to male officers and enlisted Airmen who are in the pay grade of E-2 (Airman) and above, from every Air Force Specialty Code, not just Airmen whose jobs are combat oriented.

"Until a few years ago, the school was only open to true combat jobs. It has changed to include all AFSCs," said Staff Sgt. Marco Nelson, a Ranger Assessment Course instructor. "Technically you could go if you're [from a career field like] finance, we had one graduate who was from logistics."

Airmen from all AFSCs are encouraged to attend the RAC because of the leadership skills gained.

"The reason we don't just limit this to Airmen who see the battlefield is because the unit gains a lot from sending someone through RAC," said Master Sgt. Dzajic Martinez, 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron NCO in charge of operations. "There is great value in returning Airmen to their units with all these leadership skills gained at RAC."

Leadership skills are forged through an intense training schedule which is facilitated by the RAC instructors who are all Ranger School graduates.

"The course mirrors U.S. Army Ranger School," Martinez said. "On an average night, students receive approximately three to four hours of sleep. Sometimes, it's less or more depending on how well they are working as a team to get tasks accomplished."

While running on very little sleep, the students are pushed to their limits all while expecting to retain what is being taught to them.

"We teach students [land navigation], how to maintain weapons, radios, pretty much everything [they] need to know to go out and execute a foot patrol," Nelson said. "They have to be proficient in all weapons systems. About a week after all training has been completed; students will actually go out and start doing patrols."

When the students go out on patrol they will encounter simulated, but realistic, ambushes, during which, they will be expected to use what they've learned and respond to the threat accordingly.

Nelson stated that operating for up to 22 hours a day and with little food, some Airmen realize that the course is not what they expected and decide to quit.

"I think most individuals either underestimated the course or [didn't do] the proper research or [didn't] talked to anybody who is Ranger certified, and went through the course," Nelson said.

For some individuals, it is the shock of the course's intensity that gets them to quit.

"Typically, it's the first day that gets most candidates," Martinez said. "They arrive with a certain perception of the course and this physical shock gets most to quit."

If a student voluntarily decides to self-eliminate from the course, they will not be allowed to return at a later date.

For the Airmen that complete the RAC, they will be recommended to attend Ranger School, recommended to attend but they must first pass an evaluation they had previously failed, or not be recommended.

Recently, the Ranger School opened its doors to female candidates. Martinez stated that there have not yet been any female students for the RAC, but they are looking at future classes to include females.

For those Airmen who are interested in attending the RAC, Nelson recommended that the Airman should first speak to their unit training manager and also talk to their squadron superintendent.

Airmen from all AFSCs can benefit from the experiences of the RAC and Ranger School, whether a candidate's job has been exposed to the battlefield or not.  Through intense training, the students will develop their leadership skills that will be valued Air Force wide.