By Asymmetric Warfare Group
In early 1974, Gen. Creighton Abrams, the Chief of Staff of the Army, directed the reestablishment of a Ranger Battalion in the U.S. Army. He said the unit was to be an "elite, light, and the most proficient infantry battalion in the world. A battalion that can do things with its hands and weapons better than anyone. Wherever the battalion goes, it must be apparent that it is the best." Soon thereafter, U.S. Forces Command established the 1st Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry with that direction in mind.
However, what Gen. Abrams didn't expressly say in that guidance may have been the most important aspect of what has come to be known as the "Abrams Charter." Gen. Abrams wanted to form the world's best light infantry unit and then use it to improve the readiness, esprit, and capability of the rest of the Army. He wanted Ranger leaders to be a part of the world's premier infantry unit and then go back into the rest of the Army to raise the performance of the entire force to Ranger standards.
The Abrams Charter--the obligation for Rangers to "Lead the Way" for the entire Army--lives on to this day, particularly in the Army's Asymmetric Warfare Group. Historically drawing most of its leaders from those who have served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, AWG's mission is almost an extension of the Abrams Charter. AWG enhances the effectiveness of units throughout the Army, supports the Army's Combat Training Centers, and identifies solutions that our Army needs for current and future conflicts. It offers highly trained and disciplined Rangers an ideal opportunity to live the Abrams Charter by helping improve the performance of the entire Army.
The AWG has a challenging and exciting mission. From its headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, the AWG maintains a constant tempo of deployed teams of Operational Advisors, Operational Support Staff, and specially selected defense contractor personnel with Special Operations Forces/Special Mission Unit experience who support Army and joint force commanders. AWG leaders execute true mission command, providing AWG personnel with unparalleled global freedom of movement to identify asymmetric threats, problems, and capability gaps. From these observations, the AWG analyzes the challenges, develops innovative solutions, and provides entrepreneurial recommendations that allow Army leaders to address these complex problem sets.
AWG depends on volunteers who have the right skills and abilities to man its force. Soldiers who are interested in serving in the AWG can apply for acceptance and, if selected, attend the AWG assessment course. Soldiers interested in OSS positions participate in selection activities conducted monthly at Fort Meade. Soldiers interested in OA positions participate in a week-long selection course at Fort A. P. Hill, Virginia, conducted twice annually in Sept. and March. Each Nov., the AWG conducts a modified selection process at the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas.
AWG's selection courses and activities are demanding. The OA selection course is seven days long and focuses on problem analysis, entrepreneurial solution identification, and communications excellence. It is mentally and physically challenging. If a soldier is accepted after completing the selection course, he or she will attend a six-month OA training course (OATC). (Soldiers may defer OATC and assignment to AWG to meet career goals.) The OSS selection process is three days long. Soldiers must meet the Army APFT standards and pass both a psychological evaluation and a final board. Soldiers who are assigned to the AWG as OSS may be provided the opportunity to attend OA selection. Once a soldier has completed selection and required training and is assigned to AWG, he or she can expect to be forward deployed periodically from two weeks to four months.
Many soldiers who formerly served in the 75th Ranger Regiment have applied for assignment to the AWG, been selected, and passed the required training. These Rangers form a key portion of the command. Personally written reflections from some of these former Ranger Regiment leaders who now serve in the AWG follow and express how they, each in individual ways, live the Abrams Charter.
Sgt. Maj. Stephen Lee, Troop Sergeant Major -
Shortly after I volunteered to serve my country, I volunteered for assignment at the 75th Ranger Regiment in Aug. 1998. I had just served at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea. Immediately upon my assignment to the Regiment, I had the opportunity to see the differences from my first unit compared to the Ranger standard. The Regiment was everything I had hoped it would be, period. The level of pride and tradition is what struck me the most.
When 9/11 happened, 1st Ranger Battalion was poised to respond to any mission the President saw fit. There was an electric feel in the air -- energetically, we were ready to show the world that we were the specially selected and well trained Soldiers we were known to be. To me, there was not a better unit to deploy with.
In March of 2003, I left the 75th Ranger Regiment to serve in positions of increased responsibility at Fort Bragg, NC. Since then, I have served in several other regular Army units to include 3rd Special Forces Group, Military Transition Team, and 11th Signal Brigade. As a leader I have always endeavored to set the example and live the Ranger Creed while championing the idea of the Abrams Charter.
In 2014, I volunteered to serve at the AWG, and have seen from the start that Abrams Charter actually exists here; it's not something I have to create or inject, but that I have to continue to push and keep up with. The AWG is also staffed with senior leaders from across the Army that champion the AWG mission to make the Army better. We, as a group, continue to carry this torch across all combatant commands.
Serving in the AWG can reach far beyond the spectrum of the Abrams Charter to affect our Army. Upon graduating OATC, I was on a mission to Mali to look at the challenges the U.N. was faced with. This is not something that most Department of Defense Soldiers have an opportunity to do. The observations that we brought back to the U.N., Department of State, and Department of Justice have helped change the way the U.S. Army and the DOD looks at U.N. mission support requirements. Our observations were brought to life at the Presidential Peacekeeping Summit in September 2015, and they continue to be a baseline for U.N. and DOS reports.
Maj. Steve Bourdon, Former AWG Troop Commander, Squadron Operations Officer and Group Operations Officer -
I started in the 75th Ranger Regiment as a Specialist having come into the Army with a college degree in May 1994. What struck me immediately, other than the high level of discipline, was the attitude of "never quit" and "accomplish the mission no matter what," which is really the Ranger Creed distilled to a couple short statements. These are lessons I have carried through all the way to today after 22 years of service and specifically were important as an Operational Advisor in the AWG.
What makes NCOs and officers successful in the AWG with prior Ranger Regiment experience is that "never quit" and "accomplish the mission no matter what" attitude, and the way we apply it to everything we do. Whether it is advising Soldiers, identifying capability gaps, identifying solutions, or advising and assisting units to implement solutions, "Batt Boys" will not rest until those objectives are done, and done right.
After the events of 9/11, as the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was fought year after year, a new trait grew stronger among the members of the Ranger Regiment -- agile and adaptive thinking. While the Ranger Regiment was highly skilled and disciplined already, the ambiguous environment of the War on Terror, and the constant new adaptations by a flexible enemy demanded that the Ranger Regiment produce agile and adaptive Soldiers and leaders.
The result was an organization that planned, trained, fought, and thought with the same principles developed at the same time by the AWG in their Adaptive Soldier leader Training and Education (ASLTE) methodology which was derived from Special Operations Forces principles. Some of this was experience in theater, some was learning from other SOF organizations but it produced a Ranger Regiment that could critically think and problem solve better than before.
It was the desire to continue to experience and build upon agile and adaptive thinking and operating is what drew me and many others from the Ranger Regiment to the AWG, as it was and is seen as one of the best organizations in the Army to maximize those traits and competencies, and to grow as a leader and have huge impacts to improve the Army.
In the AWG, the ability to use the competencies learned in the Ranger Regiment and the freedom to maximize agile and adaptive thinking has enabled me to contribute to new Army wide doctrine for evolving techniques: Weapons of Mass Destruction and Explosives, Subterranean Operations, Expeditionary Mission planning for small unit and Regionally Aligned Forces deployments, and countless other initiatives I have been privileged to be a part of, not to mention that most of the progress and results of this work is briefed at the 4-star level.
Sgt. Maj. Jason Lips, Former Group Operations Sergeant Major -
After years in the 75th Ranger Regiment and the AWG, I've come to the conclusion that the pen is mightier than the sword when an experienced warrior is the one writing! Experience and observation is a leader imperative in this battle. If you ask a Ranger, he will tell you there are two types: strong Rangers, and smart Rangers. The latter join the AWG to inform senior leaders, and is based off their experience in the Ranger Regiment fighting the enemy against great dynamics and complex environments.
When I arrived at the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, I quickly realized that Rangers are not ordinary men, we honed our skills to become flexible, adaptable, and take on any shape or coloration to match our enemy if that's what the mission required. Our streamlined leadership and agile ability allowed for the ranks to shrink or grow depending on the mission specifics. Army doctrine did not restrain our adaptation, it gave us our baseline.
Once assigned to the Ranger Regiment, I witnessed a strong bond of selfless service, brotherhood and honor, and that you placed the unit above all other concerns. I was an official member of a warrior tribe! We trained 48 weeks out of the year in all aspects of enemy tracking and battle space operations, and we spearheaded relationships with SOF and interagency Intelligence partners. Ranger leaders demanded professionalism, and they set the example for their tribe. This impacted your decisions, and gave you a distinction of royalty, that every man was needed to complete the mission, and so we took care of each other and expected all within our ranks to live up to the Ranger standard.
In my opinion, Rangers focused on the tactical level of Unified Action, skirting operational design but remaining keen on tactical operations. Mission success -- dominate at the tactical level and gain control of the battle space. When rumors of war spread I was a part of the planning at the ground floor at the strategic, operational, and tactical level. This was a culminating and historical eye-opener for me and trigger that the regiment was involved in shaping Army operations and structure, and contributing to SOF integration.
Two examples are: the black beret, and Army mobility. The black beret was a distinction of a lethal and professional Soldier. I can understand why the Army Chief of Staff wanted to cloak the entire Army in that particular beret.
The Ranger Regiment performed capability development on various mobility platforms (e.g., Land Rover, HMMWV, and Stryker). This large resourcing, testing, and evaluation would prove to be critical in the future force structure. Army leaders later purchased wheeled vehicle fleets instead of tank-treading vehicles.
Rangers are charged with new equipment and weapons testing to the point that the equipment failed or broke, and then to report back to the Army for engineering modifications to ultimately produce a better product to the U.S. Army. Almost every newly fielded equipment-type ran through a Rangers hands before issued to the force.
In my opinion the Ranger Regiment, and the AWG are quite similar. After the Vietnam conflict, division commanders determined that the U.S. Army needed an elite, rapid-deployment, light infantry force. So, Gen. Abrams charged Gen. Leuer with activating, organizing, training, and leading the first battalion-sized Ranger unit. Today the regimental leadership hand selects its Officers, and NCOs to attend the Ranger assessment and selection course, and upon meeting the requirements for service, a Ranger is born into an organization that moves decisively and dominates the area.
The AWG was instrumental in providing an opportunity to instill change in material, non-material, or institutional direction for the Army at the highest levels. Within months of assignment, I was on temporary duty to the Asymmetric Warfare Training Center located at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia standing before Brig. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, the Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, Kentucky, describing the complexities of the Adaptive Soldier leader Training and Education event his cadet instructor-trainers were completing and how this will establish a greater sense of future adaptation in the Army leader and total force well into the future.
Capt. Rob Heber, Current Deputy Intelligence Officer -
Upon entering service to our nation, and volunteering for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment, it quickly became self-evident that leadership was the most essential element of combat power. In the Regiment, leaders were charged with the awesome responsibility of getting the job done with Ranger professionalism, and a never-quit attitude. Ranger team leaders understand protection, fire, and maneuver. The Ranger leader needed to know the mission, be able to improvise with the equipment they had, adapt to the conditions on the ground, and anticipate contingencies on the objective.
From day one within the Ranger Regiment, Ranger leaders are encouraged to identify entrepreneurial and innovative solutions to complex problem sets. By happenstance the first time I witnessed problem solving within the Regiment, it was a problem I helped to solve.
A good friend of mine, Sgt. Maj. Ray Hendrick approached me with a question. At that time, he was the anti-tank section sergeant who came to my sniper section looking for a solution to aid in hitting targets with their heavy-weapon's system. The problem was anti-tank marksmanship. We quickly identified a solution for the Carl Gustav 84 mm recoilless rifle. Together, we built a bipod with extended legs that enhanced "steady and durable position," which had an immediate impact on pin point accuracy against hardened bunker targets.
As the Global War on Terror progressed, I met with Command Sgt. Maj. Birch in 2007, who at the time was the AWG command Sgt. Maj. He offered me a position at the AWG as an OA to focus on counter-sniper operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. I quickly accepted the offer. At the time, precision small arms fire (PSAF) and snipers were the most lethal problem on the battlefield besides IEDs. The AWG quickly identified TTPs that Soldiers could use to make it more difficult for PSAF, and enemy snipers to operate freely. Technical equipment was tested, and brought into OIF and OEF to provide better response to PSAF and snipers.
Our AWG OA teams embedded with units in OIF and OEF and quickly reduced PSAF and sniper incidents by using SH 21-76 doctrinal Ranger ambush techniques, targeting network methodologies (F3EAD), making units aware of the counter-sniper TTPs, and new technologies. By 2008, PSAF and sniper incidents had gone down significantly.
In late 2008 I was embedded with 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry in the Korengal valley, Afghanistan. The team and I identified a problem with how units are equipped. Units in Afghanistan, which were recently in Iraq, were wearing body armor in a configuration that was used while operating outside a vehicle in Iraq. Additionally, the equipment problem was that units did not have any options for providing scalable body armor packages. The other problem was that the terrain was so extreme that the weight Soldiers were carrying put them at a disadvantage against an enemy operating in their backyard.
When we briefed senior leaders at the Pentagon pursuant to our deployment about the problems we observed in one of the most kinetic areas in the OEF area of responsibility, their response was, "what do you suggest?" They were grateful that we had already identified TTPs for lightening individual equipment load outs, and that we had informed the force with a leader handbook titled "Soldiers Load." We also provided a holistic approach to offer lighter weapons and equipment to include body armor for those preparing to deploy in support of OEF. This equipping model was well received by senior leaders. The effort culminated in less than a year.
Rapidly, the Army offered lightweight equipment, weapons (MK46 and 48), scalable body armor (plate carrier), dozens of lightweight options to common items carried by all Soldiers, and an environment specific camouflage for those deploying in support of OEF. This "Soldiers Load" initiative was on an Army scale. It also set the conditions for the AWG to build better equipped Focused Targeting Forces (FTFs) in OEF and OIF. FTFs were built internally by the AWG, while AWG members were embedded in units forward deployed. AWG led FTFs were trained in targeting methodologies to provide the battlespace owner with a raiding force that could respond to the commander's targeting requirements immediately.
The AWG also has a mandate to forward think and look beyond the horizon. In 2009, with the onset of UAS technology, the AWG reached out to a company that built a weaponized, lightweight, man-portable UAS, the Switchblade. This system brought a whole new asymmetry to the fight. Now ground commanders could use their existing UASs to recon for enemy in their area of responsibility, and have the ability to target lethally using a system that would offer a precision strike and cause little to no collateral damage.
As an OA we ranged independently in small teams, in areas of persistent conflict, and embedded typically with Army units. We gained ground truth, identified opportunities to exploit the enemy using Information Operations, and identified capability gaps. The AWG mandate to enhance the effectiveness of the U.S. Army is exactly why I chose to volunteer for assignment here. In 2010, I left the AWG to commission as an Army officer. From that point forward, I wanted to share my experiences with the rest of the Army, and get back to the AWG as soon as I could to pursue leader opportunities within the group.
Since returning in April of 2016, I've observed that the AWG is still the model of mission command that I left. AWG leaders exercise disciplined initiative, deploy globally where our enemies are operating, and conduct reconnaissance to gain ground truth. There isn't a 2nd AWG so we understand how vital our role as leaders is to enhance the effectiveness of our Army. We know that there is an Army depending on us for accurate information to enhance effectiveness, and to ensure that the Army doesn't take a chance on a battlefield that it doesn't have to.
Master Sgt. Andy Moore, Operational Advisor -
I entered the 75th Ranger Regiment in 199 as a rifleman in 3rd Squad, 1st Platoon, Company A, 3rd Ranger Battalion, "Glory Boys", two years prior to the War on Terror and to the dramatic changes in the way U.S. Army Special Operations Command elements would conduct combat operations.
My father fought in Quang Tri Province in Vietnam, and worked closely with Command and Control North, and with Company "N" 173rd Airborne Brigade (LRP), which was part of the 75th Infantry Regiment under the Combined Arms Regimental System. His stories, sense of commitment, and the moral example he set, and continues to set, in my life drove me to become a ranger - any other option seemed like a waste of time. More than anything, the attention to detail, rigorous standards enforcement (of proven combat effective habits and TTPs), and demand for personal ownership of actions and their outcomes is what set me up for success throughout my military career.
The unbeatable shared comradery that fellow members of the Regiment hold on to has opened doors and presented opportunities both while I was away from the Regt., and currently as an OA at the AWG. "Understanding what right looks like" is a core trait that all OAs need to internalize in order for them to be value added at any echelon and in any environment, from combat patrols, and point raids with conventional forces, Special Operations Forces, or Task Force elements to a no-notice briefing for a Deputy Chief of Mission at a U.S. Embassy, or DOS venue.
As the War on Terror progressed, advanced technology and the changing information environment became ever more available to our enemies. We began to see similar TTPs, weapon systems, and personnel migrating across combatant commands to engage our forces across the world - in the Philippines, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, North Korea, Syria, Colombia, etc. The dissemination loop became lightning fast - an IED design in Khost City could be replicated and distributed across the world within hours or days -- and subsequently improved upon and re-employed back in its original area with greater effects.
Our forces had to adapt more rapidly than in any other time in history, with Joint Special Operations Command and the Ranger Regiment at the lead edge of this fight. No longer was a regionally or nationally specific TTP or weapon system necessarily irrelevant to another combatant command or Theater Special Operations Command. The AWG OAs continually develop the ability to spot trends and track cross-command migrations, and they have a wide knowledge of global threat personnel, training, and equipment specifics.
In the AWG, the ability to leverage my personal involvement in the process from the ground up allows me to bring the relevant lessons to conventional forces as well as U.S. Special Operations Forces that are partnered with our allies. Additionally, the flexibility, mission focus, and lethality of the Regt. are vital attributes that OAs can harness to successfully execute AWG's global threat-focused objectives.
Gen. Abrams' vision when he reestablished a Ranger Battalion in the early 1970s was twofold. He wanted to build the best light infantry battalion the world would ever see. Perhaps more importantly, he wanted to use that unit to seed excellence in the rest of the Army. That component of the Abrams Charter is one the former 75th Ranger Regiment Soldiers now assigned in the AWG live today. These Rangers form a key part of AWG and work to accomplish the AWG's challenging and exciting worldwide mission. If you are the kind of Soldier who is smart, fit, and interested in being a living example of the Abrams Charter, apply for selection in the AWG and join the Soldiers you read about here.