Growing up in 3rd Ranger Battalion, the Big Four were constantly stressed and evaluated throughout all phases of training. These skills were how the Regiment plied their trade and were the backbone of the unit’s training and mission execution.
If you couldn’t keep up physically you got smoked until you thought your eyes were going to bleed, and then you were released for standards (RFS, reassigned according to the needs of the Army).
If you couldn’t form up with your team in a stack and clear a room properly, conduct battle drill 1A, or any of the other six battle drills without causing harm to yourself or another member of your team, no one would trust you and didn’t make it in Battalion.
If you couldn’t patch-up a buddy by properly applying a tourniquet, throw in a nasal cannula, or dress a wound with an Israeli bandage, then how were you ever going to save your ranger buddy’s life on the battlefield?
What if you couldn’t shoot an E-type five meters to your front?
We all know psyops has its place on the battlefield, and correct me if I’m wrong, but no war has ever been won by dropping pamphlets, handing out candy, or giving hugs to one another. Wars are won by dropping bombs and placing lethal effective fires into the flesh, bone, blood, and organs of the enemy.
Marksmanship is the key to taking the pressure from the Big Four. More recently the 75th Ranger Regiment has moved to the Big Five, which encompasses the aforementioned and mobility. Jack Murphy explains the history and the change to the Big Five in his article The Evolution of the 75th Ranger Regiment (pt. 2): Selecting and Building a Ranger.
I remember a several years ago sitting in the office of a MSG Jared Van Aalst, then SSG, and listening to him tell me about why marksmanship should be the number one on the list of the Big Four. SSG Van Aalst was my first sniper platoon sergeant. He was one of the best marksmen I have ever witnessed, a knowledgeable friend, and a mentor.
He was never shy of giving advice and his advice that day was some of the best I have heard on the necessity of an accurate marksman. Why should marksmanship be the number one priority? Of all the Big Four, marksmanship is the only skill that can take the pressure from physical training, battle drills, and medical training. If the Big Five were taken into account it would probably have little effect on mobility due to the fact that mobility is the basis of transportation to, from, and on the battlefield.
How can expert marksmanship take the pressure off the ability to perform infantry battle drills? When I was a Private, we used to train for hours and days entering and clearing a room and bounding through squad attack. When there was downtime or a break from an administrative day, we would generally perform glass house drills (white engineer tape laid upon the ground in the shape of a room). All the battle drills always started out in the crawl phase and were run dry.
No matter how many times we had cleared a room, we always started from a dry phase, moved to a blank-fire phase, and then performed live fire. The three-step process was repeated later once the day turned to night. This process has been in place for many years because it works.
Teams, squads, or platoons may be flawless in their technique and movement through an objective, but may fail in effectively engaging the enemy with first or second round hits. It is very rare to encounter a site within the battlefield that affords the Ranger a platform to stop and obtain a flawless steady position.
If a Ranger has the close quarters marksmanship skills to support and use the four fundamentals of marksmanship in less than ideal conditions, there is a greater likelihood of a successful mission. Accurate marksmanship not only eliminates the enemy quickly, but also saves vital ammunition and the need for additional resources.
Medical training started when a I was in the Ranger Indoctrination Program and continued once I graduated to Batt Boy status. The requirement of every Ranger is to know Ranger First Responder (RFR) medical tasks. These tasks include: conducting a rapid patient survey (identifying potential problems with airway, breathing and circulation), inserting a nasopharyngeal airway and placing the patient in the recovery position, treating life threatening chest injuries with an occlusive dressing and performing a needle decompression if necessary, and controlling external bleeding using an emergency trauma dressing and/or tourniquet.
All of the skills that are taught can save another Ranger’s life, but many Rangers, especially privates new in the Regiment have not had to perform these skill in a very high stress, life threatening environment. When that brown stuff hits the fan and quick and accurate 5.56 and 7.62 are placed into the enemy the probability of a private trying to place an Asherman Chest Seal on his Ranger buddy lowers considerably. It takes very few casualties in a Ranger platoon to make an element combat ineffective.
With continued training of the big five and an extra emphasis on marksmanship, the Rangers and other soldiers throughout the military can take pressure off the potential of combining physical fitness, battle drills, and medical training into one big cluster on the battlefield.