If you have ever driven through Fort Hood during the early morning hours, you may have come across an older gentleman wearing a modified physical training uniform with the words Old Ranger written across the back.
This 60-year-old retiree of more than 20 years is Jim Wright, also known as Old Ranger.
Wright can be seen running and sweating right beside soldiers much younger than himself, offering encouraging words to the “new guys” struggling to acclimate to the humidity and heat of Central Texas.
“I like for them to see me out there with them,” Wright said. “I think seeing an old guy like myself makes them want to push themselves just a little bit harder.”
Years of service
Wright has many years of military service to fall back on when it comes to relating to soldiers. He was originally drafted as a combat engineer in 1972 and retired as a field artillery officer in 1992.
“I think I’m the only guy out there with a draft card still running,” Wright said.
For Wright, just being the old guy exercising with the troops isn’t enough.
“I report to whatever unit I’m working with before morning formation to let the leadership know I’m in the area,” Wright said. “I want to be standing in formation with them when they salute the flag.”
Wright said doing this helps break down barriers some soldiers may have about coming to talk to him later if they have issues.
“I’m a neutral entity and often when soldiers are facing tough issues in their lives, and sometimes they feel more comfortable talking to me than others in their command,” he said.
Time with troops
He also joins the unit in the dining facility for breakfast after physical training.
“Having breakfast with these young soldiers is a great way to gauge what’s going on in their lives,” Wright said. “Often they come up to me and open up about issues they’re having, and I provide an older nonthreatening voice of wisdom.”
Spc. Garsha Williams, a supply specialist with 115th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, has gotten to know Wright.
“When I first met Old Ranger in the chow hall I didn’t quite know what to think of him,” Williams said. “After talking to him about his military career I was inspired to pursue my goal of becoming an officer like he did.”
He said he’s been able to help them with issues like fixing broken vehicles, mowing their spouse’s lawns while they were deployed and numerous other issues.
“This is the first duty assignment for a lot of these guys, and for many shortly after they arrive they’re deploying,” Wright said.
“My wife Sue and I try to reach out to them and their families and provide a sense of support.”
As for how he got his moniker Old Ranger, Wright said that it was given to him during his first few weeks working with the soldiers here and it’s a title he wears with pride.