By Sgt. Zachary Mott
Area Support Group - Qatar
Success. Training. Physical. Leadership. These are all terms floating in the word cloud when discussing the 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment’s Ranger School Orientation Program with its four leaders.
The RSOP is a nearly two-year old training regimen employed by the unit currently serving as Area Support Group-Qatar’s security forces element. The program helps identify and prepare Soldiers to attend Ranger School as well as other advanced schools such as Reconnaissance Surveillance Leaders Course, Army Reconnaissance Course and Air Assault Course.
“I think with where we are right now, we’ve already seen the value in the program,” said 1st Lt. Joseph Kenny, executive officer, Bravo Company, 1st Bn., 114th Inf. Rgt., and one of four RSOP instructors. “Not only the value of identifying who has the will to become better and to increase their capabilities, but the people that we have trained, I think they have made an impact on rest of the unit. Bringing back that training and influencing other people within their formation and ultimately making them better leaders throughout the ranks.”
The training regimen is designed to mimic the different phases of Ranger School. It begins with the intensive Ranger Assessment Phase, or RAP Week, portion; then the patrolling section or “Darby Phase;” followed by the Mountain Phase and concluding with the Swamp Phase.
“We are just basically tailoring it to the time period that we’re working in,” said 1st Lt. James Montgomery, a platoon leader and RSOP instructor with Alpha Company, 1st Bn., 114th Inf. Rgt. “We are doing our best to replicate how it’s going to look at Ranger School following what you’ll experience day-to-day there, and then tailoring it to whatever time we have available whether its deployed or back in the rear in New Jersey.”
Getting the training off on the right foot while in Qatar was important to help set the tone for expectations across the board. Historically, RAP Week has a near 50 percent failure rate for all Ranger candidates.
“It’s the number one time that we have to focus on and give people the most time to be successful,” said Kenny. “We’re talking about the RPFT (Ranger Physical Fitness Test) and the 12-mile ruck march. These are things that if we were to inform the Soldier of this later on in the program, give them these training plans, these physical fitness plans later on in the program, they simply wouldn’t have the time to prepare properly.”
While in Qatar, the New Jersey Army National Guard’s 1st Bn., 114th Inf. Rgt. is able to devote more time to training and preparing its Soldiers for future successes. Physical preparation is one of the main concentration points of RSOP.
“Being physically ready is the key to sending anyone to schools,” said Staff Sgt. Piotr Jenczelewski, operations noncommissioned officer and RSOP instructor with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 114th Inf. Rgt. “This school is designed to teach you on the go. Yes, it’s better off to go in there knowing that stuff. It makes your life a lot easier. But as long as you’re physically prepared, you have a very good chance of making it through.”
Additionally, RSOP focuses on basic Soldier tasks and other lessons-learned from the four instructors. But, the onus is placed directly on the Soldier to continually improve and to become fully prepared to succeed once they are selected to attend a school.
“With this program, we’re going to give them a lot of the knowledge they to need to know, but for them to really be ready, it’s going to take individual accountability,” said 1st Lt. Steven Forrest, executive officer and RSOP instructor with Alpha Company, 1st Bn., 114th Inf. Rgt. “They need to be able to look at themselves, assess where they’re at and figure out what they need to do to get there. We need self-motivators.
“We’re happy and willing to share with them everything that we’ve learned – all of our successes and all of our failures – to make them smarter about going through the course. At the end of the day they need to be able to produce and get themselves to the point where they are individually ready to go.”
While three of the four instructors are currently in Kuwait earning the expert infantryman’s badge, the formal training is paused. However, when the collective training resumes it will be picking up where it left off.
“We kind of gave them a taste over the past couple of months of what it’s all about, but really, starting in June, we’re going to start executing the program the way it was intended with the assessments and with the end state of getting people to school and developing that order of merit list,” said Forrest.
The next phase will kick off with a modified version of the Ranger Assessment Phase.
“It’s going to be a condensed event meant to stress them out and to truly see where they’re at,” Forrest said. “We want to see is those people that are struggling, how far do they push themselves to try to succeed? That’s going to go a long way.
“We’re going to do the OML, but we’re not just going to build an excel spreadsheet and rank them based on a run time and ruck time and call it a day. We want to take it a step further. We want to bring these Soldiers in and have them go through the process of bringing in their PT card, their ERB, their ORB so we can sit down with them and we can individually counsel those Soldiers and talk to them about how they finished in the assessment portion, look at who they are and have a conversation about what are they actually trying to attain with what schools do they want to go to and when can they go.”
As training continues beyond the time in Qatar, the instructors want to see the program continue and eventually hand the reins to the next iteration of Rangers.
“I think the whole idea of this program is that it becomes an enduring program and we continue to increase amount of Rangers throughout the formation, we increase the likelihood of success of the people going,” said Kenny.
“I think the enduring piece of it, it can’t start and just stop with us,” Forrest added. “Ranger School is, at the end of the day, a leadership school. So we expect those that go to this school to be leaders and to pick up the ball and carry it forward.”
For now, though, that focus remains on preparing the first group of Soldiers for Ranger School, or whichever advanced school best suits the Soldier and the unit’s needs.
“Now is the time for us to try to get as many people prepared to the point where we have at least the 80 to 85 percent confidence that they’re going to get through the school so that when we get back and we’re back at that M-Day schedule, we can pump them through the school, get more people qualified and we have that many more resources to help out the battalion,” Forrest said.
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