Face of Defense: Airman Ranger Leads the Way

FORT BENNING, Ga., May 11, 2011 — The course began with 404 stu­dents. After 61 days of fast-paced, stress­ful sit­u­a­tions that pushed the stu­dents’ phys­i­cal and men­tal lim­its, only 191 remained and just one grad­u­ate would be an air­man.
Air­man 1st Class Matthew Gar­ner, a mem­ber of the 823rd Base Defense Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., is one of the few­er than 300 Air Force mem­bers to have com­plet­ed Army Ranger School train­ing con­duct­ed here and to earn the cov­et­ed Ranger’s tab since the school opened in the 1950s.

Fort Benning
Air Force Air­man 1st Class Matthew Gar­ner, who earned the cov­et­ed Ranger tab, lis­tens to remarks pro­vid­ed by a Ranger leader at Fort Ben­ning, Ga., April 29, 2011.
U.S. Air Force pho­to by Air­man 1st Class Brigitte N. Brant­ley-Sisk
Click to enlarge

“I want­ed to become a Ranger to find out what my lim­its were,” said Gar­ner, who grad­u­at­ed Ranger School April 29. “Com­plet­ing the course helped me real­ize there were no lim­its. The course is designed to help you find out who you real­ly are. You’re tired and hun­gry, and sur­round­ed by chaos and con­fu­sion in the worst of con­di­tions, but you still have to over­come adver­si­ty and get the job done.”

Gar­ner was cho­sen to fill one of just six slots allo­cat­ed to the Air Force each year for the Ranger School course. The stu­dents were iso­lat­ed dur­ing the nine weeks of the course as they learned the nec­es­sary com­bat skills to qual­i­fy for the Ranger tab.

“We were allowed [to receive] mail dur­ing most parts of the course, and that was def­i­nite­ly a morale boost­er,” Gar­ner said. “What real­ly helped each per­son get through the train­ing was their team. It takes a lot of indi­vid­ual effort, but nobody earns the Ranger tab on their own. If some­one was hav­ing a par­tic­u­lar­ly rough day, the team­mates would help sup­port them.” To bol­ster the team con­cept, he said, none of the stu­dents wore rank insignia.

The Ranger School pro­vides instruc­tion in demo­li­tions, moun­taineer­ing, lead­ing a pla­toon-sized patrol, com­bat arms pro­fi­cien­cy, land nav­i­ga­tion, and water sur­vival. Ranger train­ing is con­duct­ed in dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments, includ­ing moun­tains and a coastal swamp. Each phase tests the stu­dents’ com­mit­ment and sta­mi­na as they endure severe weath­er, hunger, and men­tal, phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al stress.

“Because I went through the Air Force pre-Ranger course, I felt like I had real­ly been set up for suc­cess,” Gar­ner said. “Over­all, I put about 10 months of intense train­ing into earn­ing my Ranger tab.”

Gar­ner said he cred­its two peo­ple with help­ing him the most dur­ing the prepa­ra­tion process: his father, Don Gar­ner, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Hunter. “We’re very proud of him for serv­ing his coun­try and accom­plish­ing some­thing like this,” Garner’s father said. “Even as a young man, he was always into exer­cis­ing and doing things that weren’t expect­ed of him.”

“My father helped me devel­op the men­tal for­ti­tude to dri­ve for­ward and nev­er quit,” Gar­ner said. “He was like a per­son­al coach and gave me some mem­o­rable ‘don’t quit’ talk­ing ses­sions. Dur­ing the Ranger course, the temp­ta­tion to quit is always there, so that real­ly helped.”

Gar­ner also cred­it­ed Hunter for his suc­cess, not­ing Hunter, too, is a Ranger School grad­u­ate. “I grad­u­at­ed from Ranger school in Octo­ber 2010 and then helped assess Air­man Gar­ner dur­ing his pre-Ranger course late last year,” said Hunter, who pos­sess­es sharp­shoot­er and sniper skills. “We spent a lot of time train­ing and prepar­ing for this, and I’m super proud of him.

Only 30 per­cent of Ranger School stu­dents make it through the entire course with­out being recy­cled, Hunter said. “His grad­u­a­tion is an out­stand­ing accom­plish­ment, espe­cial­ly for some­one his age,” Hunter said. “The lead­er­ship and com­bat skills he’s gained dur­ing Ranger School will be very ben­e­fi­cial to his unit.”

The grad­u­a­tion includ­ed a Ranger skills demon­stra­tion, which show­cas­es rap­pelling, demo­li­tions, extrac­tion by heli­copter and hand-to-hand com­bat abil­i­ties. Gar­ner is sched­uled to attend the U.S. Army Air­borne School this month to become an Air­borne Ranger.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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