Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rangers Lead The Way III

I have been using these pages to remember the impacts of my "crucible" event, my training at the US Army Ranger School. (If you are not familiar with it, this video series is a pretty good summary.) Two months of no food and little sleep changed me in profound ways. Externally, I lost about 50 pounds and probably aged ten years. But internally, I left with a confidence that I could handle any challenge, with a belief that it is possible to create a team where "buddies" would do anything for each other to be successful, and with small unit leadership lessons that serve me to this day, now 20 years later.

One of the requirements of the training was to memorize the Ranger Creed. Now on the surface this was just more stress, adding another demand on an already overextended and fatigued body and mind. But it caused us to understand the culture of the Rangers and to become part of something that was bigger than ourselves. This "creed," or set of beliefs, has elements that go beyond the Rangers and have application to what leadership, teamwork, and mission-focus are really all about:

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.
Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier.
Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.
Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.
Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.

They were just words, a burden for a Ranger candidate to memorize and recite on order. They were random thoughts bouncing around in a brain consumed with thoughts of food and home. NEVER fail your comrades. Complete the mission...NO MATTER WHAT...though we may be the lone survivor. Just words...until I started to believe it. And when I saw the power of a team and its leaders who had internalized these words, who lived them out in their personal and professional lives, I knew what it meant not only to be a Ranger, but to be a leader.

You can appreciate the power of a unit that embraces these principles. They are unstoppable. They believe in themselves and their teammates. They prepare themselves mentally and physically for every task. They are confident and professional. They will never fail.

I will admit that I have since forgotten the exact words to this creed. But I still embrace the concepts it embodies and the purpose behind forcing us to memorize it. The Ranger Creed really is the essence of leadership, at any level. Build a team of highly trained, inspired, confident professionals. Instill in them a culture of TEAM over self. Lead from the front and accomplish the mission, without excuses, without fail. These elements are not reserved for elite Special Forces. They should be what we seek in any team we lead or to which we belong. That makes it...Leader Business.

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