Becoming a Airborne Ranger in the United States Army is a very difficult task, Ranger School is an intense 61-day combat leadership course geared to train some of the most elite soldiers America has to offer. Having two brothers who have completed the program (Auggie M. and Dan S.), they have told me first hand just how difficult this accomplishment was. Another one of my hunting brothers named Bridger Van Ness fell off the grid about eight months ago and resurfaced a new man. Bridger Van Ness and I go way back, back to the days of high school and Varsity soccer at Colony High School. Bridger started as a freshman and was a talented athlete to say the least. We have been longtime friends and partners working on the Mission Alaska Project since 2011. I wanted to congratulate him on his Ranger School success and thank him and all of our troops for supporting and protecting our freedoms as United States citizens. A certifiable “bad boy” in the United States Army, Bridger completed his Ranger school recently and was featured in a story found at The Bayonet and Saber. Bridger has made headlines with this accomplishment as he has pioneered a new pilot program for entry into the prestigious Ranger School. Check out the story below to find out the scoop on Bridger and how his accomplishment has laid the foundation for an improved Ranger Program. Congratulations Bridger, I am very proud to know you and honored to call you friend, brother, and most importantly my hunting buddy. Can’t wait till our next Alaskan adventure!
Pilot program produces 1st Ranger grad
Van Ness, of Wasilla, Alaska, was the first Soldier to go from one station unit training to Ranger School, a feat he said was a challenging and rewarding experience.
“It feels surreal,” he said. “I wanted to do this because of the training and to do missions that every Soldier wants to accomplish.”
“Our brigade combat teams are only manned at 20 percent of all the Ranger requirements and the greatest shortage on Ranger requirements is at the sergeant level and below,” he said. “That has been an issue since the war started in 2001 and something we’ve been trying to address to mitigate the requirement and the need.”
The program will allow Van Ness and future Soldiers to select the duty stations of their choice throughout the Army wherever there is a brigade combat team, Butler said.
“He set a very high bar, so hopefully he will be able to motivate some of his peers when he shows up and tells them the only formal training he had was one station unit training,” he said. It’s challenging, but it is something that anyone can do if they put their mind to it.”
Van Ness, 23, graduated from Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., in May 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He joined the Army on Oct. 1 and completed one station unit training in January. During his training, Van Ness was approached to be a test subject for the pilot program.
“As he went through OSUT, his chain of command identified stellar performers’ abilities to accomplish the task based on physical fitness and their intellectual capability and maturity,” Butler said. “He was a star performer and exceeded all of the course standards.”
Van Ness said he was sent to pre-Ranger School after completing basic training, which helped him to make it through the Ranger School on the first try.
“I thought that I would possibly have to do another phase over but I made it straight through with the help of great peers and training,” he said. “I hope it’s a big step for the Army in getting this program approved.”
Butler said the 198th Infantry Brigade will continue to identify individuals who exceed course standards and show maturity and the physical and intellectual capacities to complete Ranger School. Using Van Ness’ experience will also help to identify potential challenges Soldiers may face.
“Not everyone is going to be able to come right off the street, join the Army, finish OSUT and go right into the Ranger course, so you have to select the right individuals to succeed,” Butler said. “If we can identify five guys per company that’s great and even better if we have more. We want to get Rangers out to the brigade combat teams so they can adhere to standards and set a great example for their peers. We want to set as many people up for success as possible.”
Preparing for his next duty station in Italy, Van Ness said he hopes to advance his education and use his knowledge from Ranger School to train future Soldiers and help improve the program.
“If a young Soldier has the right mindset, he could definitely accomplish this,” Van Ness said. “I think the Army has the potential to make this program a big hit … it could be a huge success.”