Just qualifying for the Rangers is only part of the process; once you the complete selection you have to earn your position in a Ranger platoon every day and when trained enough, you will have the chance to attend Ranger School in hopes of earning the coveted Ranger Tab.  Ranger School is a daunting task and covers over 72 days of patrolling, raids, ambushes, reconnaissance, field craft, survival, graded patrols as well as food and sleep deprivation.  It’s still to this day one of the most difficult leadership schools the military has to offer.

The life of a Ranger Private is a tough one.  You want to prove every day that with guidance and the proper training you can be a combat multiplier to the unit.  You speak only when spoken to and tried like hell not to ask unnecessary questions.  You did know, however, that your platoon “had your back.”  Regardless of rank, Rangers were committed to each other and an excerpt from the Ranger Creed specifically says, “I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy.”  This wasn’t just a saying; it was a way of life that every man in the unit adhered to.

We had a rare weekend off after a very successful week of airborne operations and training in the field, preparing to meet the enemies of our Nation on any battlefield at a moment’s notice.  While some Army units were enjoying the new Army “business-like” feeling from post-Vietnam, the Rangers were training for combat!  This is what we did, we were the modern-day Commando; this is what we loved to do.  Our barracks were relatively quiet on the weekends which I personally enjoyed.  All the guys that had families or lived off-post were enjoying their time away and most of the men that lived in the barracks were trying to find reasons to get away and blow off a little steam.  For me, it was the simple things like being able to wash my clothes and prep my gear for another long week, and enjoy a few movies in the room in relative peace.

My Saturday was destined to be the peace and quiet of getting my laundry done.  The barracks laundry room had two washers and two dryers to service over 30 men.  You can do the math and see that this usually doesn’t work well.  The room was in disarray and packed with military OD Green laundry bags with dirty, wet, and dry clothes were thrown all over the place.  It was your own personal responsibility to do your laundry.  The rule was, if you don’t watch your laundry, someone can bump you, which means multiple bags were sopping wet with clothes.  The place was disgusting and not the standard for a Ranger barracks.  For the next three hours, I washed, dried, and neatly folded the laundry for about 7 or 8 Rangers, who obviously were out doing more important things on the weekend (and I don’t blame them!)   I completed my laundry as well and left all the other laundry neatly lined up on the drying table and separated by the load.  Some bags I knew who they belonged to by their name tags and some others I had no idea.  It didn’t matter to me; it was the right thing to do.

Sunday morning I got up at about 0730 (which is considering sleeping in from our normal 0515 wake-ups) and did a nice workout session at the Ranger gym with my roommate.  We then showered, changed into civilian clothes, and hit the RDF or Ranger Dining Facility (fancy name for the chow hall) for Sunday Brunch.  This was the best meal of the week, and you could load up on food and for the most part, no one was going to inconvenience you.  It was Sunday and even God and the Command Sergeant Major took a break!  We finished our food and were now looking forward to the Sunday afternoon nap!  All my gear was ready for next week, my clothes were washed, and now to take a few hours of relaxation!!  I just nodded off and I hear “Ranger Spisso, front and center!”  I was like “huh? Did a Sergeant just call my name? And please tell me it wasn’t Sergeant MacCarthy!” 

Sergeant MacCarthy was a combat veteran as a Private in the Rangers, jumping into Grenada as a Machine Gunner.  When he went to Ranger School a few months after Grenada, he had already been awarded his combat patch (worn on the right shoulder of your uniform and signifies you’ve served in combat) and received flak from the Ranger Instructors.  “Sergeant Mac” as he was known, wasn’t a big man, but as solid as a fire plug and had the brash and bravado to back it up.  He was ultra-fit, tough as nails, could fight men twice his size and win, and looked as good in civilian clothes as he did in uniform.  As Ranger Privates you stayed away from Sergeant Mac because he would quiz you on Ranger History or a weapons system and you would end up doing hundreds of push-ups.  He was a cross-fit machine before there was cross-fit, a tactician and simply knew how to Ranger, and could back it up!

I hear it again, “Spisso, front and center! I’m not going to call you again!”  My roommate looks and me and says, “JB, you better go before he comes down here and strangles us both!”  Good idea!  I didn’t want to get strangled!  I yell out “moving Sergeant!” and go tearing out of my room and down the hallway.  I stop at the intersection of our platoon entryway a few feet from Sergeant Mac and assume the position of “Parade Rest,” the proper position when speaking to a Non-Commissioned Officer.  I respond with “Ranger Spisso, as ordered, Sergeant.”  At this point, I haven’t a clue why he wants me and was going through in my mind everything in my weekend that I possibly could have screwed up?.

Sergeant Mac says “Spisso, were you the one that did everyone’s laundry this weekend?”

I replied, “Yes Sergeant.”

He then says “Did you know my laundry was a part of that?”

I replied, “No Sergeant.”

He goes on and asks, “So why would you do everyone’s laundry and not just leave it there?”

I replied, “Seemed like the right thing to do Sergeant.”

Then, like in the Christmas cartoon the “Grinch,” I see a little smile come across Sergeant Mac’s face which I’ve never seen before and he responds with “Random act of kindness, I’ll be dam!  Good job Spisso and thank you.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond and thought awkward thanking him back for thanking me, so I did the best response for an 18-year-old Airborne Ranger and just said “Hooah Sergeant!”

Sergeant Mac then says “I’ll see you at PT tomorrow Spisso, go enjoy your day. Move out!”

I arrived back at my room, my roommate was surprised I’m still alive, and I hit the rack for my Sunday afternoon nap knowing my random act of kindness made a difference on even the toughest of warriors!

Hooah!  I hope you enjoyed this blog and remember that YOU can make a difference!


Note: When I attended the 75th Ranger Regimental selection it was known as RIP or Ranger Indoctrination Program. It has since been changed to RASP or Ranger Assessment Selection Program.