I want to be an Airborne Ranger…

I am constantly talking to prospects who tell me they want to be high-speed. They tell me they want to be special forces or snipers or infantry or rangers. That is all well and good. During the first semester of Army ROTC class cadets get taught about goal setting. They are taught about what we call SMART goals

  • specific
  • measurable
  • attainable
  • reasonable
  • tangible or targeted

So, is the goal of being Special Forces a SMART goal. Most high school seniors probably don’t have a good idea of what it takes to be Special Forces, or Ranger, or even Infantry. I’m sure they have done some research. I’m sure they have read about what it takes on the internet. They have probably seen the movies and TV shows, and talked to soldiers who have been there, but it’s a lot harder than it looks. We have commissioned over 70 Second Lieutenants in the last 5 years. Of those I am aware of one who served in the special forces realm (Ranger Battalion to be exact). We have had a handful graduate from Ranger School (no small feat), and more than a few who have graduated from Airborne School or Air Assault School.

I don’t want to crush hopes and dreams, but if you come to Army ROTC at a place like Clarkson and the Golden Knight Battalion by pursuing ROTC you are pursuing a commission. You will become an Officer in the US Army when you graduate. You may or may not get to choose what branch (career field) you will serve in. That decision is made at the beginning of your senior year, and takes into account your desires, your ranking, and the needs of the Army. It is called the accessions process, and there are no guarantees other than the guarantee that you will be a Second Lieutenant. I like to describe it as entering our corporation as a mid level manager. Here comes the war story. I worked for a large company, in a steel mill, in the mid 90s (US Steel). When I hired in as a manager I was assigned to the shipping department. After about 3 years I was moved to the flame cut department, and at the 5 year mark I was moved to the heat-treat department. Then I got called up for Afghanistan. Each of those moves was an increase in responsibility, but I was still essentially a manager in the mill. The Army is similar, in that your day-to-day function of leading and managing your organization doesn’t change a whole lot from branch to branch.

So, keep dreaming about being a high-speed soldier, but understand that you don’t know what you don’t know, and being an Army leader is rewarding, challenging, and meaningful no matter where you are asked to do your job. Next post will talk a little about what you need to do to set yourself up for success.

Make sense? What do you think?

1 Comment

  1. My goal originally was to be a Ranger. I was a member of the Clarkson Rangers. But I was also an engineer;. I had Corps buttons on my ROTC uniform and wore Corps brass. When I graduated, I realized that the Army had put a lot of money into an Engineer Officer and that was how I was to serve. Later in my career, that was confirmed. I would suggest that every Engineer Officer or those who are considering engineering and the military read The Damned Engineers: How one battalion of Combat Engineers stalled Hitler’s offensive in the Battle of the Bulge by Janice Holt Giles.

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