Nov 22

What Ranger School Taught Me About Survival.

By Ranger W.

When I was a new Second Lieutenant I was afforded the opportunity to attend the US Army Ranger School, and extra lucky to manage to graduate.  Ranger School will teach anyone some very important truths, a few of which I would like to share with you.  Whether you show up as a 19 year old barely out of high school or as a former college professor with a few PhDs you will immediately learn the importance of wearing good socks, in addition to many other hard lessons learned.

Ranger School has been jokingly referred to as the John Wayne School for Boys.  As of today there are still no female Ranger students (should continue as such IMHO).  It is a 62 day course that covers survival and patrolling in three different climate/terrain phases.

  • Phase 1 (Benning Phase): The woods of Fort Benning, GA
  • Phase 2 (Mountain Phase): The mountains of Dahlonega, northern GA.
  • Phase 3 (Swamp Phase): The swamps of Florida, near Panama City (also far less fun than Panama City beach!).

One of the biggest misconceptions of Ranger School is that it teaches someone how to silently slit throats or how to punch people to death with a single blow.  Some of the actual teaching points of Ranger School are how to persevere in harsh terrain, in bad weather conditions, without adequate rest, without adequate food, all while carrying heavy loads. No matter what your prepper motivation scenario, these are probably skills you value.  Keeping that in mind here is an incomplete list of my individual lessons learned:

  1. Physical Fitness Matters.  To prepare for walking long distances with heavy things on your back you need to be in great physical shape. Long distances for you are different than me. Right now with zero notice I could leave my cubicle with 50 pounds of supplies in a ruck sack and cover 12 miles in about 2.5 hours.  I’m definitely not bragging here, I realize many people could cover the same distance at a much quicker pace.  12 miles in 2.5 hours is only establishing a metric to measure yourself by. Bugging out aside, think about how far away your closest safe location could be from your work, are you physically capable of walking that far?  Could you make it under weight of everything you think you will need to carry?
  2. Calorie Intake Considerations.  Ranger School limits you to one or two Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) per day. This varies by time of year and/or how nice your Ranger Instructors are. So figure that’s between about 2,000 and 3,500 calories a day. For those of us who lead sedentary, vegetative office space lives that might sound like an exorbitant amount of calories. However the average Ranger student loses about 20 or so pounds following that “diet plan” for 2 months.  Walking for 20 hours a day with a heavy ruck will burn the weight off your body in unbelievable ways. I generally don’t recommend it as a diet technique though due to the fact that after your body finishes burning your fat cell stores it starts consuming muscle fiber.  By the end of Mountain Phase Ranger students’ t-shirts and uniforms smell horrible from the by-products of metabolized muscle.
  3. The Need for Sleep / Security.  Trying to move about in the wilderness with around 1 hour of sleep night after night will make you crazy. You will have hallucinations. Time becomes very fluid and/or slow.  Imagine that you are making your great escape (Bugout) from Metropolis, but have to do so on foot because your lifted, camouflaged GMC Yukon ran out of fuel.  After a few days you will be exhausted from only eating a couple packs of jerky (trying to conserve your food supply).  You will have to sleep sometime, so who will pull security you while you do so? If you are traveling in a party of two you will have to alternate your sleep schedule to provide security at all times. You will get sleep deprived and your ability to make decisions will suffer.  Do you have the mental fortitude to maintain your situational awareness under those conditions?
  4. Good Socks. You have the wrong socks, I promise. If you think you will be able to cover ground with white gym socks under your Walmart brand outdoor boots you might want to reconsider. Finding the right socks for doing some serious travelling on foot requires trial and error. The very best boot sock that “a cool guy from Delta Force” recommends might have a seam in exactly the wrong place for your foot. Get out there and find the correct cut of sock that fits your foot the best.  I’ll leave the topic of boots for another time as it could go for pages.  I personally like Blackhawk boots; I have been wearing them exclusively since 2007 and never have any blisters/hot spots.  Only you can figure out what you need and what fits best!

So I’ll wrap this up with a few suggestions.  Get outside and start putting some miles on your leather personnel carriers (boots).  Go hungry for a day and see how it hinders your body’s performance.  Try to work out after being awake for 24 straight hours.  If you want to taste reality, you need to practice suffering right now to see how it will impact your performance.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that once your life is on the line you will just spontaneously exhibit the required intestinal fortitude in order to survive.   You could be disappointed, and it could cost you dearly.


Ranger W. is a frequent contributor to  Read some more of his works here and here.  He attended Ranger school and graduated in class 10 of 20XX.  


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Be Sociable, Share!


2 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. As an old Ranger (from the 80s) this is a good assessment and one thing I think of when I speak with or read about others plans WTSHTF. Just like practicing to be off grid. miss a couple meals or a few hours sleep, or/and take a long walk and see how your body responds. good and simple post

      • PJ on November 22, 2012 at 2:20 PM
      • Reply


      Thanks for the comment, glad to see you are also trying to encourage others to conduct a small/simple assessment of their physical/mental capabilities (when under stress).

      • Brad on November 25, 2012 at 11:28 PM
      • Reply

      As an old Ranger (from the 60’s), I found this article spot on! Walk half marathons now. 13.1 miles in 2.5 hours but with only a 10 pound pack. Press on!

        • PJ on November 26, 2012 at 4:43 AM
        • Reply

        Thanks for the comment Brad. Half marathons are nothing to be scoffed at, good work!


  2. What an excellent article. Short, sweet and vital. Many of us have wrapped our minds around the prepping reality – but have not experienced the physical demands of an actual test. Test trials can make a difference. Survival is about more than stockpiling cans and equipment. In the post-collapse land of the blind you will be the one-eyed man who is king. Well done. Tom

    • Ranger W on November 23, 2012 at 8:24 PM
    • Reply

    Hey guys, appreciate the post and the comments. Hopefully some good ideas will hit me and I can write some more ranger school good ideas. I’m not a smart man but luckily there have been over 60 years of ranger school classes to provide learning opportunities.

    • dave b on November 24, 2012 at 2:42 PM
    • Reply

    Great article – I am a novice prepper. I have plenty of guns, ammo, and Wise food for about 1 year for mystelf, my wife and my 3 teenage daughters. My issue is that, they all think I’m a bit nuts. My parents and my sister’s family also think I’m nuts. Since they wont take steps to prepare, I am trying to prepare for all of us. Fortunately, my brother in-law is very handy and could help out when TSHTF, but has no intrest in taking steps to prepare. My parents are in their low 70s, and with the exception of my brother in-law, we have only teenage girls to help out (5 between the two families). As far as I know there are no other prepared families in my neighborhood – it looks as though I will have to prepare for all of us. I can already hear your suggestions, but give em to me anyways.


      • PJ on November 24, 2012 at 4:14 PM
      • Reply


      I’m sure many face the same situation that you are in. The reality is you won’t turn your family away when T-SHTF so you have to do what you can for everyone while you still have time. I wrote about this a while back, here is the article.

      Hope that helps.


  1. […] W. is a frequent contributor to  Read some more of his works here, here and here.  He attended Ranger school and graduated in class 10 of 20XX. […]

  2. […] W. is a frequent contributor to  Read some more of his works here, here and here.  He attended Ranger school and graduated in class 10 of 20XX. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.