Army Ranger Patrick Hawkins and the case of the missing Rip Its

A love for the culinary arts, motorcycles, and helping others.
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Luke Ryan and Patrick Hawkins as gun team leaders in Afghanistan.
Luke Ryan and Patrick Hawkins grew up in regiment together and were gun team leaders in B Co., 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at the same time. (Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

During the War on Terror, it was common for deployed service members to live off of Rip It energy drinks, dip, and moldy baked goods from home. But, sometimes, supplies run low. Sometimes, service members had to resort to “acquiring” the aforementioned creature comforts. When two Army Rangers, Luke Ryan and Patrick Hawkins, happened to stumble across an unguarded stack of their favorite citrus Rip Its, they couldn’t resist the temptation to acquire them. 

“We walk in there, and lo and behold, right in front of us, there’s this huge stack of an insane amount of citrus Rip It’s — literally the only kind that we love in our squad and was obsessed with,” Ryan recalled. “It’s just sitting there right in front of us like a cartoon, like might as well be shining — sparkling in the sun. We’re like, ‘Oh my god, this is a miracle.’ So, of course, we just grabbed two cases and walked back to our hooch with them.” 

Both Hawkins and Ryan were on their first deployment as Rangers assigned to B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. When they saw how “stoked” their squad leader and the rest of the squad were about their acquisition, they went back the next day, hoping to score more. 

When they turned the corner of the warehouse, they saw another unit’s first sergeant and a colonel looking around the spot where they had found the Rip Its. Rangers, while deployed, do not wear unit patches that would give away what unit they belong to. 

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When the senior leaders saw them, they asked the two young-looking unknown soldiers about the missing Rip Its. 

“They could see our uniforms, and we didn’t have markings on our uniforms except for the flag,” Ryan said. “So they knew we were from some type of SOF unit, so they probably didn’t want to get into a big shit fight with some unit who they don’t even know who they are, but they know that they have a lot of clout around there.”

Hawkins and Ryan explained they were new to the area and wanted to learn the layout of the forward operating base in case of an attack. The first sergeant seemed to believe their story, and told them to stay away from the area because “Someone has been stealing our Rip Its.” Both Rangers inhaled sharply and exclaimed something along the lines of ‘who would do such a thing.’ 

Luke Ryan graduated Ranger School shortly after Patrick Hawkins and the two became gun team leaders in B Co., 3rd Batt., 75th Ranger Regiment during the same timeframe. (Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

The case of the missing Rip Its is what comes to mind when Ryan is asked about his best memory of his best friend and fellow Ranger, Patrick Hawkins, a 25-year-old sergeant and gun team leader killed during one of the bloodiest mass casualty events in Ranger history on Oct. 6, 2013. In total, four Americans were killed in action among dozens more wounded that night. 

Ryan remembers Hawkins for the strong leader he was despite his young age. The two ‘grew up’ in Ranger battalion together. They were roommates both on deployment and stateside. 

“He was a very, very good Ranger,” Ryan said. “He’s one of those guys who’s pretty good at all of these individual skills, Pat was like that but elevated a little on all of them. He was really smart and was one of those guys that can be a strong Ranger and smart Ranger.”

Hawkins cared a lot about the Rangers under his leadership. He was strict and stern with his guys, but when work was done, he was the most caring guy he could be. Ryan recalled how Hawkins was always checking in with his guys outside of work and was willing to drop everything and help them whenever they needed it. 

Ryan talked about their different approaches to leadership. He was more of the “ask mom” type, and Hawkins was more of the “ask dad” type. Though they got into arguments at times over their differences in leadership style, Ryan said Hawkins’ Rangers were squared away and very capable, proof of his best friend’s success as a leader. 

Patrick Hawkins, Wayne Capacillo, and Luke Ryan served together in 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and spent a lot of time together.
Patrick Hawkins, Wayne Capacillo, and Luke Ryan ahead of a night of fun during some time off from the grueling training cycle. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Capacillo)

From a young age, Hawkins was a leader. He led the charge to build a skatepark in his hometown and worked as a cook in the prestigious kitchen of The Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pennsylvania. 

“He loved to get into new stuff — new hobbies,” Ryan said. “He had a lot of half-built hobbies, a lot of half-finished kind of things, but it wasn’t about necessarily finishing them or mastering them, he just really liked to get into new stuff and learn about it and go down the rabbit hole.”

That love of learning attracted Hawkins to mountaineering, skiing, motorcycles, and many other hobbies he picked up throughout his life. But more than anything, he wanted to help other people. 

“He really liked to give back. He was a very community-minded kind of person. He really wanted a team or a group of people to always be helping each other,” Ryan said. “And just as a friend, he’s one of the most loyal people I’ve ever met.” 

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