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Subject: SF/Rangers
static    10/26/2007 8:15:40 PM
Ok guys, SF vs. Rangers, which one is better and why? Sorry couldn’t help it. My question is actually along those lines but it’s a little more in depth. I have been contemplating what I want to do with my life s far as a career path and am still without any firm direction. You may remember my thread about intel SOF but my situation is basically this: graduating in the spring with two BAs and interested in the military, but my eyesight is sort of a limiting factor. Mough (I think) suggested that I just give the option 40 contract a go and see what happens from there, which is what I am leaning towards. I am however interested in pursing a career in the "defense side" of government after I get out, whether that means DoD, DIA, NSA, CIA or whatever. I realize that you can’t be a door kicker forever so eventually I will have to transition into a more staff related position, but I’m hoping by the time that occurs it will be a more senior position. Also I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t have a hard-on for tier I units, and was wondering which one made a better feeder. Second, I am considering the possibility that I am rejected from military service because of my eyesight. I am pretty set on going to grad school so I still have a few years before I have to sign on the dotted line. I have an adequate GPA coming out of school and pending a good score on my LSAT, I am considering going to law school. Would anyone recommend for or against this? Private sector the options for a lawyer pay much better, but I wasn’t sure how a JD would look as opposed to an MA in the military. However further down the road I think the law degree might open up a few doors. So which one would you recommend? I will most likely be enlisting and doing that route for a few years before going to OCS, to make sure that I get in the branch I want instead of going "needs of the army". Plus I would like to get some on-the-ground time before assuming any type of leadership role. Also signing with an intel MOS is still an option.
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dirtykraut       10/28/2007 10:51:35 PM
As other people have just recently said, if you want to be in SOF, do not come in as an officer. I believe it was mough who correctly stated that officers are there for paperwork. Yes, they do manage and organize within their respective group, troop, batallion etc but it is mostly through paperwork. Civilian employers do not care wether you were enlisted or officer, as most don't really know the difference. If you go into SF as a captain, you will be in a staff position almost immediately after a very brief time of commanding an ODA.
If you just cannot stand the thought of going the enlisted route in the regular army into a non SOF job, go for an option 40 contract. It will guarantee you a shot at Ranger Indoctrination Program, and if you make it through RIP you will be in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Be careful what you wish for, though. RIP, while a difficult course on it's own, is only a selection course to see if you are suitable for life in the Ranger regiment. A life that is extremely regimented and difficult, and each day in the regiment is a kick in the balls and makes RIP and even Ranger school look easy in comparison. Truth be told many people cannot go straight from high school or college life and go right into that level of intensity, and will be told by the regiment to pack their bags, even after completing RIP. The Ranger Regiment is always kicking people out, which explains it's rather small number.
The reason I don't recomend SF first is because you need to know the regular army before you can be an unconventional soldier. You have to go through all that bullshit and learn to hate it, and it will motivate you through SFAS and the Q course. Even if you graduate, you will not be up to speed on a lot of things, and you will find that you will be looked at as the "special" kid in SF who needs people to breathe for him. I don't say this to scare you, but it is how the vast majority of your older comrades will look at you, because it will probably be true, regardless of who you are.
My advice; join with 11b airborne contract and you may be in the 82nd, a very good starting point for SOF yuppies (No offense). Or just get a regular 11b contract and put as your duty station the place you want to serve. A good way to go is to put Fort Drum as your duty station, and they will probably send you there to the 10th mountain division. It's cold as hell and you will be in the field a lot but you will be a better soldier for it, and you will build that much needed mental toughness to get you through the SF pipeline. Or put Fort Campbell as your duty station, and you may go the 101st airborne division. If you are infantry they will put you through air assault school and you will get to fly around on helicopters on a regular basis.
There are also many non SOF oppurtunities in the army. Once you have been in long enough you can post an application to the AWG, or you can go to OCS. I advise you to research the army so you know everything a civilian can and get an objective picture of the entire army, and you will be able to choose what you want to do. There are lots of oppurtunities to be had, even in the conventional army.
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Claymore       10/29/2007 2:20:02 AM
DirtyKraut, you have a lot of good info in that post.

I am curious what you would recommend for a College grad who is interested in the Army. Specifically not enlisting but going through OCS. What is the downside of that route (No getting the job you want etc.) and is it difficult to pick what type of combat unit you want to be in?

Are there any cool or unique routes for officers that are not part of any of the big name formations?

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longrifle       10/29/2007 8:46:30 AM
My perspective is dated.  I haven't seen either one close up since the late '80s.  I didn't serve with either unit.  This is from an outsider looking in. 
Words like "elite" and "special ops" have broad definitions.  Suffice it to say that units have cultures and there was a cultural canyon between SF and Rangers in the '80s.  Some soldiers have gone from one to the other and not minded the difference.  Others have not adjusted well.
You can get a glimpe of cultural differences in Inside Delta Force by Eric Haney.  While going through Delta selection Ranger Haney meets Command Sergeant Major Walter Shumate, an SF legend.  Haney is standing at parade rest and going through the whole "Yes, sergeant major; no, sergeant major" bit.  Shumate tells him "Knock that shit off, ranger, or you're gonna wear me out."  Yet, there was never any doubt about who was who in the conversation in spite of less emphasis on formalities. 
I got out after four years in an airborne infantry unit.  If I had it to do over again I would give serious consideration to SF.  As far as I'm concerned their history is as impressive as any.  More Medals of Honor per capita than any other unit in Vietnam plus the whole OSS connection from WWII.  If SF worked out after several years I'd consider becoming an SF warrant officer. 
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dirtykraut       10/29/2007 7:56:56 PM
Claymore, it all depends on what you want. Are you looking to join the army as a career or to get some experience for a civilian career? If you are in it for the experience, branch something practical like Quartermaster, or something to do with logistics and supply. Transportation would be another good branch. Civilian employers love any previous management experience in these areas. If you are in it for the career, than pick the branch you want. The combat arms branches and the military intelligence branch are the most difficult to get into. But if you have a solid GPA and good APFT scores you should be competitive for any branch. The way it works is that you get to list your top 3 choices, and 9 out of 10 times the army will give you your first or second choice. Though you have to remember that OCS is fairly competitive, and about 40% will fail the 14 week course.
There are all kinds of things you can do in the conventional army. Once you have a bit of experience and a few tours in Iraq, you can submit an application to the Assymetric Warfare Group. As an officer you will have an active voice in the development of COIN doctrine. A very interesting and rewarding job, to say the least. It is also not very difficult to change your branch in the army. I know a few guys who went from infantry to aviation. I also know an Lieutenant Colnel who switched branches 4 times.
The downside to being an officer is that you will not spend much time actually doing your job. Your job is management, basically, and making sure the enlisted guys have what they need. It's similar to a civilian job, though instead of being in a management position for some telecommunications company you will be in a management position in one of the greatest organizations in the world, the US Army.
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static       10/29/2007 8:56:23 PM
Thanks for the answers guys, I am always looking for a variety of opinions.  Initially I was pretty opposed to going the officer route, but truth be told it?s a big bad world and having loans to pay off sucks.  Even more so if you are looking at 2-3 more years of grad/law school.

I realize that life in the regiment is not walk in the park, but I would at least like to try to do something a little more high-speed than regular infantry work.  If I can?t make it I am fine with that, but I would rather be told that I?m not good enough than play the would?ve-should?ve game.  What?s the officer situation like with the Rangers?

The 18X is an interesting option, I would like to hear what the ODA guys think of it.  It works well for the army because 90% of people are going to wash out and end up in line units, but you still get the SF babies or whatever they are called that make it through the pipeline and have to be taught the basics.  Truth be told the SF route isn?t really my thing, if I had to pick I would go with the Rangers.  I have a lot of respect for the UW mission but I would rather kick doors down and shoot stuff than try FID work.  Plus it seems like there is a bit of a divide between the SF and SOF units, as once someone ends up in SF and have been trained up to SF standards they are likely to stay there rather than move on to a tier I unit.  Just my uniformed perceptions however.

I think what gets lost in all the noise and cool toys is that SOF guys are soldiers at heart and have put in their dues to get where they are.  Another reason I am considering going in with an intel MOS is that I?ve heard that they pull from all branches, so you might as well go in doing something you enjoy because chances are you aren?t going to make it to the top.  Intel is a lot closer to what I would be doing outside the military.  Plus I?ve heard that they get attached to ODAs and other cool units, so I assumed that if I volunteered for airborne I could do some fun crossover work.

I?d still like to know what people think about advanced degrees, or if it even matters.  I?m still pretty fluid about which I?m going to do but I know I?m going to do something.

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dirtykraut       10/29/2007 9:54:55 PM
I don't like to speak for the SF guys, but most of whom I talked to don't think much of the 18X program, even though they realise it's necessary. I don't know who told you SF operators tend not to move to tier one units. SF is probably the biggest feeder unit to tier one units. In fact, I would bet that considering CAG's recruiting pool, and the caliber of personell they can choose to go to selection after they have applied, that a soldier with 3 years in the 75th is not going to be at all competitive for a slot in CAG selection. You would probably go on to serve in the 82nd and perhaps return to the regiment or go SF before being competitive. CAG has under 250 operators, so it isn't likely to an issue for them to pick up qualified personell from other units, because they are so small in number. Having said that, Special Forces is a fantastic organization, completely underrated, and with a lot of history. It truly is an accomplishment to earn the Green Beret. They are definately one of the most experienced SOF units in the game, considering that they had a high op tempo doing FID long before 911. With a career in SF you would be a shoe in for any of the various intelligence agencies.
I understand the burden of college loans, I'm dealing with that myself right now. Getting a comission is not a bad idea at all. If you want a career in the CIA/NSA etc. try for the Military Intelligence Branch of the US Army. When you are commissioned you will be an all source intelligence officer, and later on in your career you can specialize in for example imagery analysis, or human intelligence, to name a few. This will build a great resume for the various intelligence agencies to look at.
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mough       10/31/2007 1:14:45 PM

In fact, I would bet that considering CAG's recruiting pool, and the caliber of personell they can choose to go to selection after they have applied, that a soldier with 3 years in the 75th is not going to be at all competitive for a slot in CAG selection.

I don't know quite a few "oddball" non Ranger/SF other type sneaky types have passed into CAG while SF guys have failed....30+ year old cooks being one

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static       10/31/2007 1:38:41 PM
No way, next thing you know you are going to be telling me that Steven Segall made it past CAG selection.

I don't know where I picked up the SF/SOF animosity thing, I'm sure it was somewhere in the reading I have done over the past few years.  But I will defer to your judgment since you have much more exposure than I do.

What are the officer positions like in SOF?  Is it pretty similar to the SF guys where they are just doing paperwork or do you get to get some exercise as well?

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dirtykraut       10/31/2007 11:17:46 PM

In fact, I would bet that considering CAG's recruiting pool, and the caliber of personell they can choose to go to selection after they have applied, that a soldier with 3 years in the 75th is not going to be at all competitive for a slot in CAG selection.

I don't know quite a few "oddball" non Ranger/SF other type sneaky types have passed into CAG while SF guys have failed....30+ year old cooks being one

I remember you saying that mough. That's interesting. I'd imagine it would be rare. He must have had some kind of obscure skill to be able to even make it to selection, considiring classes are only a couple hundred or so. However, cooks tend to be high quality personel. I know it sounds ridiculous, but most of those guys have their priorities straight. It takes a hell of a lot of patience to prepare something that takes so long and it's eaten so quickly by an ungrateful crowd. Perhaps the maturity level of a cook is higher than most. Or maybe I'm talking out of my ass. It's probably the latter. I have to admit I've been getting into cooking shows recently. Especially Gordon Ramsy's "Kitchen Nightmares". So my respect for chefs is up there.

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dirtykraut       10/31/2007 11:27:21 PM
Static, I was referring to SOF in general, to include SF. I really couldn't tell you what the day to day job of an officer in SOF units is. I have heard that is mostly administrative and staff work, in otherwords, paperwork. Much like the regular army. Mough, Horsesoldier, or Bob would provide you with a better answer and could probably tell you in a little more debth what an SOF officer does. I just make it a point to try and get people interested in the regular army, because there are so many oppurtunities to be had there. If you have any questions about careers in the conventional army, I'll be happy to answer them for you. In about 5 years all my info will be outdated and I'm trying to be a know it all as much as I can right now.
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