Today I have another exclusive interview, this time from former team mate, Jeremy Rodriguez. When I was a Team Leader in Weapons Squad in Ranger Battalion, Jeremy was one of my privates. After I left to go to Special Forces, Jeremy remained with the platoon for several more rotations. I think this interview will be an eye opener for many people who don’t really know or understand what life in Ranger Battalion is really like.
Please introduce us to your background and what prompted you to join the Army?
I was a normal kid raised in a very conservative family in north Texas. I wrestled growing up for different schools and leagues. I will never forget what brought me to the military and that was my sophomore year in high school and watching those planes fly into those towers. Even if we were to go to war again to this day I would have no problem fighting for this country again.
Did you sign on with a Option 40 (Ranger contract) or volunteer while in basic training or airborne school? Why did you want to become a Ranger?
When I knew I wanted to fight for this country I knew I wanted to do something in special operations although I had no IDEA what special operations was other than watching Black Hawk Down.
All potential Rangers must pass the Ranger Indoctrination Program, or RIP, a type of selection course that separates the men from the boys. What was that experience like for you?
HAHA it was horrible. I went through RIP in the dead of winter which they totally used against us. Rather than just the usual “smoke” us all day and make us exhausted they used the weather against us. Stand in formation for hours upon hours in the freezing ran in nothing but pts and then Cole Range was a total mind fuck. The mind games were much more overwhelming than the pt. The only cover we had for sleep was the cover we shared with our ranger buddy and what little sleep we had.
I will say one thing though…. RIP was a million times easier than being a new private in Ranger Battalion with a spawn of Satan as a team leader.
How is Ranger battalion different from other infantry units?
This was something that I never EVER had a clear answer to but people always asked me until I left active duty and got into a national guard infantry unit. Its very simple… discipline!!! Its as easy as that. You discipline your men if they cant take it or conform they quit or get kicked out.
What duty positions did you hold in battalion and for how long? What responsibilities did each entail?
My entire career in Ranger Battalion was spent in a weapons squad which I enjoyed more than anything. I knew weapons squad inside and out (thanks to a hard ass team leader) and I honestly loved it. I went from an ammo bitch to a gunner to a machine gun team leader. I also went from being a Stryker driver to a gunner to a TC [Tactical Commander or Tank Commander], which honestly was probably one of my favorite jobs. On my last deployment I was in charge of a Carl Gustav team Which was also an amazing job since I was probably the only one in the platoon that knew the Gustav inside and out.
Where were you deployed and what type of missions did you conduct with your platoon?
I deployed three times once to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq. I conducted a number of different types of mission but my most memorable was from my last deployments and do what we called “call outs” and shooting Gustav rounds into these houses that didn’t comply.
What type of training did you conduct in Ranger battalion? How much of it was quality training that you felt equated to what you saw on the battlefield?
I will say the training in battalion was rough and sometimes didn’t always make sense, but looking back now it makes all the sense. Those hard training missions that lasted forever and pushed you beyond what limit you thought you had and brought you together as a platoon squad and team meant was battalions gravy. Some of the training was just a suck fest and ALOT of it was related to combat operations.
How many parachute jumps do you think you conducted while in Battalion? What did you usually jump with?
38 jumps in battalion. Ehhhh I hated jumping. I’ve jumped almost damn near everything except a mortar. Being with a weapons squad and also with an AT squad. I’d say most of my jumps toward the end consisted of my m-4 and things I needed for my gun team. Extra barrels, tri-pod, swivel, 7.62, LSA, and other things for a heavy weapon.
Any advice for cherry jumpers out there?
I HATEEEED JUMPING… and I’m insanely scared of heights but its as simply as this. If you die from a jump you’ll never know…cause you’ll be dead. AND STAY AWAY FROM MY CHUTE WHEN IM FALLING OR ILL KICK UR ASS WHEN I LAND.
What weapons and equipment did you typically carry on missions? What did your packing list consist of and how did it change as you matured as a soldier?
I laugh when I read this question coming from you because I remember my first mission ever with you. You made me carry 1000 7.62 rounds in an assault pack in a three man team. I will never forgive you for that hahahaha, and I will always remember the look on your face when you yelled at me for sucking on that mission then grabbing my assault pack and thinking it would be lite then seeing your face when you realized “Holy fuck this is heavy”. As a ammo bitch and machine gun TL I carried an M4 and various other things for the gun. Lube tr-pods rounds you name it. As I matured as a soldier I realized I could condense my packing list to my needs and more importantly my teams needs but also travel light. I quickly learned I HATED being cold and no matter what I carried some sort of quick cold weather gear and I also learned that just because the OPORDER says the mission will take this long it doesn’t mean so… so I always had some extra snacks for me and my team which always helps for long days. The modern soldier will also never forget his batteries hahaha.
If you can, please summarize your deployments and give us a thumb nail sketch of what each was like:
First Iraq deployment to Mosul. Mostly driving and maintaining a Stryker. A mix of day and night missions and the heat inside of those Strykers during the day was insane. Second deployment was something different. I hurt myself in Afghanistan and didn’t recover as fast as I would of liked. Third deployment was spent in Iraq Samara providence and consisted of all helo mission and a lot of call outs and a lot of walking. A thumb nail sketch of a combat deployment could never do justice, I’ve written a lot about those 3 and if you desire my notes I’ll give them to you.
I recall that during the deployment we were on together that you drove a Stryker armored vehicle. How would you rate the Stryker?
The Stryker was an amazing vehicle and I fell in love with it. I knew that vehicle inside in out by the time I left battalion. I’ve seen that thing go through hell and back and with a good crew its unstoppable.
What was the average day like for you in Ranger battalion? Deployment and in garrison, work and recreation?
An average day differed from where I was in my career. As a new private and average day was going to be me getting smoked for hours proving myself and being a sponge and taking in all knowledge of a weapons squad. As I grew more senior and proved myself battalion was whatever you made it. You wanted to learn anything you had the chance to. Deployment were great, I called them a vacation from garrison. Work was tough but that’s the point you are an Airborne Ranger…. your gonna do some hard work.
I know we had some good times back in the day, tell us what is the funniest and most absurd moment that stands out in your mind?
HAHA Jack we had some insane times and some of those I don’t think I should type out, but if you really want me to get with me later and Ill send you a separate message.
What is the most dangerous moment that stands out in your mind? Any missions that were particularly hairy?
I remember only ONE situation I was very worried about… A mission on my last deployment in the Samara area going to a house in the middle of nowhere. As we walk up to this house (that we later found out was rigged to blow) we start to find caves dug into the ground. Holes big enough to drive a truck into. At first we found one in the area but then we found we were surrounded by these things and there was movement and lights coming from in them. We quickly fell back and called for fire.
What was your opinion of the quality of leadership in Ranger battalion? (You can feel free to be brutally honest here since I was your team leader for a time, but I’m also interested in what you thought of the higher echelons).
You might not agree with me Jack but I’ve thought about this a lot. Standing there and looking up sometimes it never made sense but not standing here looking back I can see why we did what we did and why it came down from the level it did. BUT I will say this…. There was several times where everyone was like “WTF IS GOING ON AND WHY THE FUCK” but I think it was all to keep us on our toes.
How did the insurgents fight? What were their tactics and what types of weapons did they typically carry?
Their “tactics” outside of the IED was almost none…The shoot and just pray to hit something and get away with it seemed like their way of fight. Honestly…cowards.
At the end of the day how effective, or ineffective, do you feel Ranger battalion is as a fighting force on the battlefield? What did they bring to the fight, or fail to bring to it in your opinion?
Ranger battalion will kick your door in punch you and your family and the face and feel no remorse. That’s the point of a Ranger Battalion and damn well should be. War ain’t pretty and Rangers don’t give a fuck. You use the words fight so I will assume you mean FIGHT… Ranger Battalion brought the FIGHT to the fight… then overran it and destroyed it and left no fight to be had… again the point of Rangers.
Are there any tips and ticks of the trade that you can share with us that you won’t find in any book or military manual?
Take care of every man next to you and care just as much about their life as you do about yours. I’ve experienced a bad leader in a time of combat and by bad leader I don’t mean tactically I mean over his men… you don’t want to be in his shoes. His men hate him and could care less about taking that extra step to saving his life. Hard to say it and its hard to hear but its true… don’t be that guy.
Are there any misconceptions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or about Ranger battalion that you would like to clear up for the public?
I haven’t heard any rumors and don’t really listen to these types of things.. If you wanna experience some shit then go find out yourself
How did you part ways with Ranger battalion and what did you do afterwords? Why did you decide to leave?
Real simple. I left for my family and simply because I didn’t want to end up as crazy as I knew I already was
Feel free to share any final thoughts about your time in the military, about war, or life in general:
I’m at a loss for words… I could never sway a man into war but at the same time I could never talk him out of honoring his country and/or those before him…Your heart will make those decisions.
Thanks for a great interview Jeremy!