There are certain Special Operations legends out there that are sometimes hard to make heads or tails of. One involves a little-known prison riot in Panama which resulted in a subsequent snatch and grab operation that the 2nd Ranger Battalion was involved in. The author first heard about this event from his Platoon Leader in a patrol base in Afghanistan with 3/75 back in 2004. Realizing that this event is under-reported, and parts of it completely unreported, this was clearly something that had to be written about.
As a part of Operation Safe Haven in 1994, thousands of Cuban refugees who had been trying to sail from Cuba to the US in improvised rafts and small boats were detained en route and imprisoned at the US military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, then transferred to Panama where they were set up in refugee camps. The program was overseen by the US military, and the refugees were told that they would be granted entry to the United States.
From the time the refugees were transferred in September, they waited in the camps in Panama, becoming increasingly frustrated with their delayed entry to the United States. By December, the situation reached a boiling point when the Cubans were told that they would not be immigrating to the US, but rather would be repatriated to Cuba. On December 8th, 1994, the refugees rioted. The unit charged with maintaining the refugee camp was 5th Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, and it fell on them to put down the riot. They were denied shotguns and tear gas, and sent in to deal with the mob with batons and plastic riot shields.
Some bright star had decided to use rocks instead of pavement for one of the pathways in the prison, and when less than a hundred American soldiers from Charlie Company, 5/87 Infantry entered the camp to quell the riot, they faced hundreds of rioters hurling rocks that rained down on their formation. Face masks and shields were smashed to pieces in the onslaught, limbs were broken, faces bloodied. “When I watch movies about the Civil War and men marching into fire, that’s what it was… Everybody was hurt. Everybody got [messed] up,” one of the American soldiers present told Stars and Stripes.
Since 9/11 we have seen a revolution in how the entire US defense structure approaches and deals with the issue of terrorism. While the Clinton administration introduced some legislation that would pave the way for “targeted” killings in instances where there was an Executive Finding, the Clinton administration took a limp-wristed approach to intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism for the bulk for the 1990s, including missed opportunities to kill Al Qaeda head honcho, Osama Bin Laden.
The post-9/11 Bush Administration not only swung US Special Operations forces into action, along with Para-Military and Clandestine Services, but also pushed hard for an expansion of these capabilities. Then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld played a large role in expanding the Special Forces Regiment and personally visited the Delta Force compound on Ft. Bragg to get a better understanding of how counter-terrorist forces operate.
Obama stepped into the White House during a transition period where America was withdrawing from Iraq and attempting to hash out an exit strategy for Afghanistan. While timelines were debated, shifted to the right, and a number of phony withdrawals were staged for the media, the US military did pull out of Iraq and is currently working towards doing the same in Afghanistan. No doubt this action has increased support from both the Pentagon and the American public with the near total lose of credibility of US Counter-Insurgency strategy with the so-called “insider” or “green on blue” attack where our Afghan allies suddenly turn on and kill American soldiers.
In the face of this withdrawal, the War on Terror seems to be decreasing in over all troop deployments while simultaneously expanding in all directions with low-visibility operations in places like Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Mali, and Libya. Meanwhile, other long standing operations have continued in places like Colombia which have been largely ignored by a media, and perhaps a Pentagon, that has a fixation on the Middle East.
With SEAL Team Six eliminating Osama Bin Laden during Obama’s watch, the Special Operations community has received unprecedented popularity in the public arena. Reportedly, the Obama Administration has delegated responsibility for counter-terrorist operations to JSOC and his National Security Council, leaving them more or less to their own devices.
Today’s modern Ranger Battalions were first established in 1974 as America’s premier Airborne Light Infantry unit which would be a part of America’s new and growing Special Operations capability. The unit would be specially trained and selected in order to maintain high standards and serve as a role model for the rest of the Army.
With this in mind, 1st Ranger Battalion was stood up as was its selection program called the Ranger Indoctrination Program, or RIP. Soon after when 2nd Ranger Battalion would activated, they too began their own RIP for incoming and prospective Rangers.
After graduating from Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training, and Airborne School, those enlisted soldiers who wish to join the ranks of the 75th Ranger Regiment then attend the Ranger’s selection program. This is a brief history of that program and how it has evolved from the early days up to the present.
Former 1/75 Ranger Mingo Kane had this to say about his experience going through RIP in 1984, “First week, run…run, PT, road march, run…get screamed at, run…flutter kicks, run. Not a lot of sleep…it was pretty much to weed out the weaker students…Hand to hand was nothing more than getting your ass kicked, everything revolved around punishment…elevating your feet shoulder height to knock out push ups when you fucked up, which was often…I gotta say, I never knew a human fucking being could run like they did in RIP…fuckers [cadre] were beasts. The chow hall was a good ways off, you ran there, ate in 45 seconds and ran back….you had to read the [Ranger] handbook every down second of time, no laying around on bunks at night shooting the shit, you were exhausted anyway…I think we started out with something like 26 and graduated something like 6…one year later I was the only one left in 1st Batt (Frances Elder was killed in Panama).”
Filed under News, Writing
With the Army issuing a press release to announce a new Discovery Channel Special called Hell and Back, Special Ops Ranger, there was one curious factoid published with it that left many of us in the Ranger community taken aback. The documentary follows a class of prospective Rangers through RASP, the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program which is a pre-requisite for serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment. The Ranger Regiment is known to maintain tough standards in regards to everything from physical appearance, to maintenance of equipment, and most importantly, performance in combat and job competency. These standards are enforced, violators are shown the door and Released For Standards but more critical than that, these non-performers are usually never allowed through the door to begin with, they are weeded out during the selection process which historically only has a 30% graduation rate.
This is why we were shocked when the Army press released stated, “114 Soldiers started Class 5-12; 91 Rangers graduated.” This is a shockingly high graduation rate of about 80% as opposed to the historical 30% that pass RASP and before that RIP. These graduation rates signify is massive drop in the physical and/or academic standards that RASP students are being held too in order to move on to a Ranger Battalion.
75th Ranger Regiment
It wasn’t until I left the Ranger Regiment to attend Special Forces training that I began to realize how highly respected the Regiment is, not just in the Special Operations community, but throughout the entire Army. I spent some time thinking about why Rangers are held in such high esteem by their fellow soldiers.
The Ranger Regiment never had a very good Public Relations machine in my opinion. Everyone knows about Navy SEALs. They make movies, TV shows, and video games about them. Mention the name SEAL to a civilian and they will tell you unequivocally that SEALs are the best there is. Mention Rangers and they will respond, “What, you mean like forest rangers?” Folks don’t just fail to understand what Rangers do in combat, but they also have no idea that the Ranger Regiment even exists. Hell, a new non-fiction book comes out about SEALs every month or two. I don’t think a single non-fiction book has been written about Rangers fighting the War on Terror. Since 9/11, we’ve even seen books about Delta Force and SEAL Team Six, but nothing about Rangers!
Read more: http://sofrep.com/1011/the-ranger-standard/#ixzz1mfsRw6dO
Yeah, a lot of that going around apparently. According to Ft. Benning’s newspaper, The Bayonet, Ranger School is struggling to fill its openings for Army Sergeants. This is surprising, as Ranger School was essentially established to train Army NCOs in infantry tactics and leadership before sending them back to mother Army. In this way, their new skill sets would diffuse amongst soldiers throughout the entire military.
The Bayonet is now reporting that Ranger School is experiencing a deficit of over 80% for the number of NCO’s who should be attending, a number that is only expected to grow.