By Staff Sgt. Garrett Ralston
3rd Cavalry Regiment public affairs
Soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, recently endured 48 hours of rigorous assessment to see if they have what it takes to become U.S. Army Rangers.
The squadron sponsored a Ranger School Assessment Program to ensure their candidates were properly prepared for the physical and mental challenges the school presents.
"The (assessment) is designed to identify soldiers we are confident will succeed in school," said Capt. Nick Eslinger, assistant squadron operations officer. "They will need to possess a significant level of physical fitness, motivation, heart and attention to detail."
Troopers began with the Ranger physical fitness test, a standardized test which, unlike the Army physical fitness test, bears a single performance requirement regardless of the soldier's age.
Immediately following, candidates laid out the gear needed to complete the assessment. Every stage of the program was executed quickly and with great emphasis on detail. Failure to follow instruction often results in additional "physical training," aimed at sharpening the candidate's focus on tasks.
"We try to take the soldier out of his comfort zone and force him to perform in a high stress environment," said Staff Sgt. Hector Caudel, a platoon sergeant with Crazyhorse Troop, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. "The ones who have the heart and desire to be a Ranger will distinguish themselves from the others."
As the first day wore on, instructors pushed tired soldiers through the combat water survival test, which included a 15-meter swim in uniform and required them to free themselves from their gear while submerged in water. Candidates moved on to basic skill exercises, which included positioning claymore mines, drawing up machine-gun range cards and weapons assembly drills.
Soldiers finished the first evening with a timed, three-mile buddy run and a trip to the obstacle course on Veterans Field.
"This was really a personal challenge to see if I can handle the pressure," said Pvt. Justin Terek, an infantryman assigned to Bandit Troop, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. "It's been pretty rough. We get intense physical training between and during events."
The next day, candidates tackled a land navigation course at West Fort Hood in the chilly morning hours after minimal sleep and sparse rations. Afterward, they received more training and prepared for a 12-mile march, which would signify the end of the assessment.
"The ones that make it will have a chance to greatly increase their tactical and technical knowledge and then bring that back to enhance the abilities of the squadron," said Eslinger. "Ultimately, we want to keep filling school slots with Tiger Squadron soldiers."
Terek said the most important factor in enduring the assessment was not giving up.