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Home News-Telegram News 2007 Sulphur Springs grad earns spot in Army Rangers: ‘Best unit in the world’

2007 Sulphur Springs grad earns spot in Army Rangers: ‘Best unit in the world’

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Tanner Higgin

First published in 2009, this article was written by Higgin's mother and details her son's rapid rise to Ranger status.

Rising from a private to a specialist in under two years of enlistment is impressive enough, but for 20-year-old Tanner Stone Higgins, the fast track to military success also includes being one of the U.S. Army’s youngest Ranger graduates.

First published in 2009, this article was written by Higgin's mother and details her son's rapid rise to Ranger status.

Higgins, a member of the Sulphur Springs High School class of 2007, earned the coveted Ranger tab during ceremonies held May 1 at Fort Benning, Columbus, Ga., after months of the intense combat leadership course, “a brutal right of passage” for only the toughest of soldiers.

“I grew up knowing I would go into the military. I was always interested in it from the time I was little,” said Higgins, who committed to the Army his senior year, earning him an Army College Fund Scholarship in excess of $56,000. “Fightin’ is kind of in my nature, and I liked the idea of doing something cool and getting paid for it. What could be better than serving your country?”

On Aug. 21 of 2007, Higgins left for basic training at Fort Benning. At that point in his life, two-a-day practices with the Wildcat football team were the hardest things he had ever experienced.

Going 48 hours without sleep while standing in lines for uniforms and equipment to be issued, as well as seemingly endless lines for vaccinations, dental exams and a haircut, was no picnic, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

“The worst part about basic training was being homesick,” said Higgins.

Nevertheless, he completed the nine weeks of basic training and went on to Advanced Individual Training, graduating on Dec. 7 with Charlie Company, 2-54 Infantry Regiment, 192 Infantry Brigade.

Higgins then went directly into Army Airborne School, making several jumps out of C130 aircraft by his 19th birthday on Jan. 31, 2008. He completed three weeks of Airborne School with Alpha Company 1/507th Parachute Infantry Regiment and currently has 13 jumps under his “pack” belt.

The path to becoming a Ranger began in earnest after Higgins earned his wings in early February 2008, then entered “RIP,” the Ranger Indoctrination Program. RIP is not Ranger School, but a four-week selection process designed to ensure soldiers have the basic minimum qualities to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

The average age of an Army Ranger is 24 years and older.  Higgins said his Ranger instructors said that less than one percent of the Army ever volunteer for Ranger School and actually graduate. Out of that one percent, less than one percent successfully complete the program under the age of 21.

The program includes daily physical training, rigorous rucksack marches, timed runs, map reading, night and day land navigation, water survival, air assault and demolition, as well as extensive written exams. Historically, the Ranger School graduation rate fluctuates between 40 and 56 percent.

“We would do PT (physical training) for 14 hours straight,” explained Higgins. “You learn what you’re capable of doing physically and mentally.”

Higgins has proudly donned the tan beret and scroll of the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment since his RIP graduation on Feb. 29, 2008. He is stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga.

A scrolled Ranger means that he is a member of an elite Special Operations Force, according to information from ShadowSpear, a special operations community social network, which states that “it is commonly acknowledged that the Ranger Tab represents a school, whereas the Ranger Scroll represents a way of life.”

“It is commonly said that getting into Regiment is the easy part,” one ShadowSpear administrator wrote on the organization’s website. “The hardest part is staying there. This is for the most part true. However, RIP is not easy by any means, and its attrition rate is significantly higher than Ranger School. This is simply because RIP is a selection process, not a school.”

After scoring 107 on the Defense Language Aptitude Battery test — the second-highest in his company — Higgins began training in the Army Ranger Language Program learning Arabic.

His first deployment came in October 2008 (he deploys again in August) when he was sent to Afghanistan for a four-month tour of duty. After serving only two months, Higgins was the first from his platoon recommended for Ranger School by his commanding officer. He returned to the United States just before Christmas to begin the Army’s elite leadership training program.

“I was the first private picked to go,” said Higgins proudly.

Ranger School is an intense combat leadership course consisting of three separate three-week phases that take place in the rugged mountains and woods of Georgia before moving into the final stage in the Florida swamps.

According to Higgins, the first phase of Ranger School teaches the basic principles of patrolling in an enemy environment. Other facets include squad combat operations, communications, battle drills, ambushes, and platoon raids and reconnaissance. Students must demonstrate their experience in both leadership and support roles.

The Mountain Phase also teaches soldiers how to sustain themselves without food and sleep in extreme environments of rugged terrain and severe weather. Higgins experienced near-freezing temperatures, saying that exposure to the elements, hunger and mental and physical fatigue all play important roles in evaluating a soldier’s capabilities as a leader.

“The mountain phase was definitely the toughest,” said Higgins, recalling going days with no food or sleep. “Being without food — starving — was the hardest thing for me. As Americans, we don’t really ever experience hunger. Food is just a given. That was the worst.”

Students receive instruction on military mountaineering tasks and techniques on the fundamentals of climbing and rappelling, learning to tie knots, anchor points and rope management. Missions involving cross-country movement and parachuting into small drop zones are performed in both day and night operations, testing physical and mental stamina.

Students who move on to phase three —  the Florida Swamp/Jungle Phase — conduct an airborne operation, parachuting into the swamps, where they learn small boat operations, expedient stream crossing techniques, rain forest survival, and recognizing and handling venomous and non-venomous reptiles. This phase is extremely fast-paced and highly stressful, Higgins said.

“We stayed wet all the time, wading through water up to our necks,” Higgins said.

Throughout each phase, soldiers are graded on performance in positions of leadership, leading as few as two or three men up to a platoon of 60 men. Soldiers also undergo peer evaluation.

“The military is all about respect, but in Ranger School, rank goes out the window,” said Higgins, explaining that all officers at some point of their military career have to be Ranger qualified. He said he was one of about only 30 actual Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment that graduated in a class of 204 men. “I was a private and my best friend was a second lieutenant from West Point. It doesn’t matter. You’re all miserable together.”

According to Higgins, it is in a soldier’s best interest to have one or two close buddies to help them through the program.

“It’s tough. All you have is each other,” he said.

The number one purpose of Ranger School is to produce leaders of the United States Army who know how to respond under extreme pressure and adversity.

“It teaches you how to react when things go wrong, which they can and do every single day,” Higgins emphasized, drawing from his own personal experience. “It’s not like the movies at all ... it’s actually very scary getting shot at and not knowing whether to stay put or move. You constantly have your head on a swivel. The war’s not over, and the public needs to remember that there are men overseas fighting and dying every single day.”

What all Rangers have in common, according to Brace Barber, former Ranger and author of “Ranger School — No Excuse Leadership,” is “tenacity, perseverance and a desire to be one of the best.”

“Ranger School truly taught me what it is to be a man,” Higgins admitted. “It taught me that I wasn’t nearly as tough as I acted — but that I was a lot tougher than I thought.

“It’s a good feeling to be a part of the best unit in the world.”

Higgins is the son of Patti Sells of Sulphur Springs and Danny Higgins of Hurst.


The Ranger Creed
The Ranger Creed is the official mission statement of the United States Army Rangers and is also adopted by Rangers in other armed forces around the world. It was initiated by then-Lt. Col. Kenneth C. Leuer and his Command Sergeant Major Neal R. Gentry. It was re-drafted by the battalion XO, Major "Rock" Hudson, and finalized at Ft. Stewart in Georgia in 1974 when the original cadre deployed there:

"Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.

Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one-hundred-percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.”

— Source: www.ranger.org
 

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