The U.S. Army’s Ranger Course, better known as Ranger School, is one of the best and toughest leadership schools in the military — arguably in the world. Every military branch, including foreign allies, can send troops to Ranger School. 

The grueling course takes Ranger trainees through three phases, from the forests in and around Ft. Moore, Georgia, to the swamps of Florida. Shenanigans are bound to happen when you have people from all over the world and different U.S. military branches together in a tough field environment with little food or sleep. 

But, when Ranger candidates feel like they went ten rounds with Mike Tyson, the average person may wonder how anyone can find humor in that situation. A former Army Ranger, Luke Ryan has been through some hellacious moments in his military career. 

Humor helped him, as it has for many others in the veteran community. 

“There are positive aspects to shared hardships,” Ryan said. “When you inundate your life with things like that, and aspects of it are positive, you’ll laugh at some point despite the type of humor that it is.”

From hallucinations to poison ivy, we found the funniest Ranger School stories


Following his graduation from the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, Ryan was assigned to 3rd battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and went straight into the stressful training and deployment cycles engrained into life in the regiment. 

Right after deployment, he was sent to Ranger School. During one of the many field training exercises, Ryan and his class received a torrential downpour of rain. It just felt like one thing after the next, and he started to question his life choices. 

“At first, I was so pissed. I was like, ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ I volunteer for this shit over and over and over again. I was like, ‘Okay, man, I gotta stop doing this myself at some point.’ I was so mad at myself for five minutes,” Ryan said with a laugh. “Then I just started laughing after that. I was like, ‘Jesus, man.’ I just kept walking. You just have to laugh at some point — it just makes sense to laugh.” 

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It’s common for exhausted Ranger candidates to conduct long patrols under night vision goggles that lead to hallucinations. Stories about candidates trying to insert a quarter into a vending machine that was actually a tree and many others permeate the myth and lore of Ranger School. 

Ryan was walking in a staggered formation one night when, suddenly, the guy in front of him “teleported” to the other side of the road. In staggered formations, soldiers often look ahead and see the person on their right so they know to be on the left. 

When the soldier in front of Ryan teleported to the other side of the road, he moved to the other side of the road, only for the other soldier to blink back to the other side. This continued for a while before Ryan ignored it, and the teleporting suddenly stopped. 

“I don’t know why I didn’t think anything of somebody teleporting right before me,” Ryan said.

But the hallucinations didn’t stop. Not long after, the soldier turned into a “giant floating boulder.” Ryan didn’t let that bother him.

“The funny thing in Ranger School is, you get used to hallucinating. You get to the point where I had hallucinated so many times at that point, I was like, ‘That’s just a dude,’ and I kept going,” Ryan said. “So I did, and he was just a floating boulder on that side of the road.”

From hallucinations to poison ivy, we found the funniest Ranger School stories

Monkey tail

Soldiers attending Ranger School eat a lot of Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs). These nefarious meals can be a calorie-dense option in a pinch, but eating them for 60 days straight can cause less-than-ideal gastrointestinal symptoms. 

Jake Tanner arrived at the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii in June 2013. Not long after, he was sent to Ranger School.  

“I still didn’t even fully understand or comprehend what Ranger School was all about,” Tanner said. 

Going into Ranger School as a new soldier in the Army is challenging. It’s the quintessential example of the military saying, ‘Drink from the firehose.’ But he didn’t shy away from the challenge. He retained the fortitude to keep going despite getting recycled in the Mountain phase. 

Every phase of Ranger School is brutal, but he wouldn’t give up. On a freezing day in Florida, he and his Ranger buddy pulled security from their fighting positions. It was late November, and the below-freezing day combined with the cold, wet sand they were in created less-than-ideal conditions.

“That sand was just sucking every ounce of warmth out of you. We were just sitting there shivering. You’re almost like cuddled up to each other, trying to stay warm because, if it’s cold, it ain’t gay, you know,” Tanner said with a laugh. “So we’re just sitting there freezing and giggling because of how exhausted we were.”

Time was dragging on as they forced their eyes to stay open. Things suddenly became more interesting when his Ranger buddy said a monkey was behind them. Perplexed, Tanner wondered if his buddy was hallucinating. After turning around to look, Tanner burst out laughing. 

“There in the center of the patrol base, this poor dude was hunched over the slit trench with a massive, long MRE-fueled turd hanging from his ass, making it look like he had a monkey tail. […],” Tanner said. “The dude just looked just like this skinny, depleted Ranger student struggling overtop the slit trench. It was wild. We just couldn’t believe it.”

No hallucinations there, just a soldier dealing with the unfortunate repercussions of his favorite MRE. 

From hallucinations to poison ivy, we found the funniest Ranger School stories

Fields of poison ivy 

Ranger School is chock-full of mistakes made by food and sleep-deprived soldiers. They are constantly doing some sort of training that is exhausting. It can get interesting when guys rotate through leadership roles like team leaders and squad leaders because rank doesn’t exist in Ranger School. 

It doesn’t help when you set up your objective rally point (ORP) in a bad spot. Due to the sensitive nature of their work on active duty, a Ranger School graduate’s name and unit history are not identified in this story to protect their identity. We’ll call them Moe. 

Moe and his Ranger buddies were in the middle of an FTX in mountain phase, and things were going smoothly. They even managed to establish their ORP in the daylight. But a trick they had been using up until then came back to bite them. 

“One thing that was really stupid, but it’s what quite a few guys did — at least all of the guys in my squad — we would leave our bottom two or three buttons on our pants unbuttoned,” Moe said. “If we were taking a knee during a short haul, we could just whip it out and take a piss real quick.”

That trick works well until you do it in a field of poison ivy. They thought the open area was perfect for their ORP. Oil from poison ivy leaves gets all over whatever comes into contact with it. If not washed away, it can spread through clothing. It didn’t hit them right away, but as the days went by, many of them started to break out from the poison ivy. 

Despite the rash, they made it to Florida, but the first field training exercise would start soon. Luckily, the first few days were filled with classroom instruction, giving them time to let the calamine lotion knock out the rash. 

“The [Ranger instructors] and the medics were trying really hard to get it cleaned up before the FTX. We were going to have to walk with that, and it would lead to some guys being pulled out and whatnot,” Moe said. “Quite a few of us were just walking around in sand T-shirts and flip-flops in the base, pink from the waist down, trying to get this stuff cleared up before we started the FTX.”

Some of the others who weren’t hit so hard were heckling the guys impacted by the poison ivy, and one of Moe’s good friends kept yelling across the base, “Put your dick away!” Whether it was the lack of sleep or just heavy exhaustion, they laughed about it more than they were angry. 

But Moe and his squad figured out someone could have prevented the debacle. 

“Looking back at it, the [Ranger instructors] definitely knew that it was a poison ivy field. They also definitely did not tell us not to set up there; they just kind of let it happen and then stayed out of it by themselves,” Moe said. “So thank you. I appreciate you guys for that one.”

The Ranger hopefuls wanted to get them back, but how does one mess with a Ranger instructor when they haven’t graduated yet? Moe said they had to implement what was available, using “passive aggressive” tactics. For example, whenever they set up a sand table ahead of an FTX, they would orient themselves so it forced the cadre closer to their slit trench in the patrol base. 

So when the briefing happened, guys would unleash their fully digested MREs into the trench, forcing the RIs to breathe in the ‘fresh’ air. As the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served in a slit trench.

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