Rangers Lead the Way

So Matthew left for Ranger School yesterday and to be honest….I am a mess. I’ve cried so much the last few days that I think I’ve literally run out of tears. As much as we talked about it and I mentally prepared for this day to come, it’s still surreal that it’s all happening and that we will be spending the next 2 to 4 months in silence. But times like these continue to test the foundations of our relationship and ultimately our faith to see how our response is rooted in Christ.

Naturally, to deal with my copious amount of feelings, I have decided to channel them into a blog post about Matthew leaving for Ranger School. Bear with me…there are a lot of feelings to be felt! To make it easier for those reading, I’ve broken up this post into two parts: a general Ranger School outline and my personal thoughts/reflection leading up to this point. Both, I feel, are important pieces of this chapter of life God has given to us and I hope that both can be give you clarity on what it’s like to be an army relationship.

 

A Ranger School Breakdown

Ranger School is approximately a 2 month course where soldiers are pushed pass their limits and then some. Any soldier can get a slot at Ranger School but it’s pretty difficult unless you’re a part of the Ranger Battalion (basically means you are or are going to become a Ranger) or you’re in a heavy combat arms branch, like the Infantry. For Matthew, being an infantry officer with no Ranger tab pretty much means you get zero respect and we can’t have that now can we? So he’s gotta brave through this treacherous course and prove that he’s got what it takes to keep up with the toughest of the tough.

Ranger School is essentially divided up into 3 phases: Benning, Mountain, and Florida (Swamp). During Benning Phase, the first week is called RAP week (Ranger Assessment Phase) and it is where 30% of people fail. Why is RAP week so hard? Very simple – they try hard to smoke you out. Within these short 5 days, soldiers are expected to complete the following: a RPFT (Ranger Physical Fitness Test) consisting of push ups, sit ups, and a 5 mile run; a 5 hour land navigation course, the Malvesti course (just imagine the hardest obstacle course conceivable); a 12 mile ruck; and unending missions practice. And if that’s not enough, they only get 3-4 hours of sleep a night with just enough food to keep them functioning. If you fail RAP week, you get kicked out and have to wait until there’s an opening in the next class of soldiers going to Ranger School.

Once you’ve passed RAP week, you only have to repeat each individual phase if you don’t pass. This is called “recycling”. You can only recycle each phase twice before you get kicked out of Ranger School. This is why it can take up to 6 months to pass Ranger School – very few people make it through Ranger School in one-go because most repeat or recycle each phase at least once. Some other ways you can leave Ranger School is for medical reasons or if you get peered out (or voted out by your fellow soldiers).

The nice thing (army girlfriends and families, you will be overjoyed to know this) is that they actually have an 8 hour pass in between each phase (if they pass) where they are able to leave the training grounds if someone picks them up and takes the home. While this means a sweet reunion for loved ones, for our soldiers it means getting laundry done, supplies replenished, and as much sleep as possible on an actual bed. But it’s definitely better than nothing and offers a little bit of hope to get you through to the end. Soldiers can also receive mail & care packages throughout Ranger School, but they don’t always get them until the very end and it’s pretty hard for them to write back. BUT you should absolutely write to them, encouraging them to push through and reminding them of how much they are loved. You have no idea how much a simple letter can mean.

[If you would like to send Matthew mail or a care package during Ranger School, please reach out to me and I will get you his mailing address.]

As you can tell, Ranger School is pretty hard core. The one piece of advice Matthew got over and over from soldiers who have already been through the course is to bulk up as much as possible before you go because apparently, guys can lose up to 30 pounds during their time there. It ain’t pretty. This isn’t completely accurate anymore but if you wanna see a small glimpse of Ranger School, check out this clip from the show, Surviving the Cut. You can find the full episode here.

Oh and I forgot to mention – Ranger School only has a 48% graduation rate which you better believe Matthew will be a part of. Rangers Lead the Way!

 

The Girlfriend’s Perspective 

Before Matthew and I even started dating, I knew that our relationship would not be an easy one and that difficult seasons like this would be inevitable. Yet I made the decision that this fine fellow was one worth taking the risk, trusting in the fact that our sovereign God knew what he was doing. There were times when we would sit down to talk about the reality of what’s to come and I would freak out because seriously – what girl wants to be told that their boyfriend and potential husband will have to spend months at a time away, could very possibly be absent at milestone events in your relationship, and might go to war but not come back? No girl, that’s who! But a wise sister in the faith reminded me that God gives us sufficient strength for the day and when the time comes, he will give us sufficient strength to overcome whatever He gives to us. And so over the past year or so as we prepared for what was ahead, God taught me how to continually cast my burdens on him, to give my fears over to him daily, and to trust in his sovereign plan for me and for my relationship with Matthew. Now, I need to remember that more than ever.

As the day drew closer, the reality of what we are about to endure through started to get the best of me and it became nearly impossible for me to hide how I was feeling to Matthew. It was like a waterworks show every night for the past week -_- I can’t even imagine what Matthew must be going through as he prepares to leave for Ranger School but in our last conversation before he left, he said to me, “We’re going to be ok. We’re gonna make it through this together. Remember the joy you have in Christ who will never leave your side.” SERIOUSLY? He’s comforting me and reminding me to persevere and to cling to the truth as he is about to leave for possibly the hardest course of his life. I am a lucky lady to have such a loving lad.

But he’s completely right. The way my response to this difficult time differs from others is a huge testimony to how as a Christian, my hope is found in Christ. To remember that there is a great joy to be had in the face of struggle because Christ is greater than these passing days and his unwavering love compels me to seek out a greater purpose through it all. Yes, this I know. And this, I hope one day very soon I will be able to share with you that are truths I can personally attest to. But in this present moment, I am quite frankly having a very hard time. Please pray for me to know with my heart and not just with my mind the hope that I have in my sweet savior Jesus who always provides a joy unmatched by anything on earth.

The hardest part, I think, of being an army girlfriend is the complete uncertainty of what to expect. Sure, ultimately everyone is uncertain of how their relationship will play out in the future and to a certain extent, we can only plan so much. But in an army [and really, any military] relationship, you have so little control over what or when things will happen that it gets hard to plan even practical decisions in a relationship. During IBOLC, we didn’t know if Matthew would have to go to Ranger School right away or if he would have a break to come back and rest. As we prepared for Ranger School, we had to plan with no idea if he would actually pass each phase or how many times he may have to recycle. Even now as I am mentally trying to prepare, I have no idea if I have to wait patiently for 2…3…4 months…or longer until he finishes. And after that, we don’t know how many speciality training schools he will be placed in before he goes to his station. I literally don’t have any answer for anything but as mind-numbingly frustrating it is, I know that this is exactly how God is answering my prayer to trust him more. To entrust him with all that I have and to not rely on my own strength or plans. To live one day at a time, not worrying about tomorrow but being diligent with what God has given to me today. The pruning hurts, but the fruit will hopefully be much greater.

 

Now the countdown begins. Only 68 more days until I can see my best friend again. But for now, I remember and am thankful for the happier times we’ve had and I look forward to a joyful reunion ahead.

And if anyone wants to be a friend and eat away all my feelings with me, holla.

 

Over and Out,

Juang

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[Dang Yang] An IBOLC Graduate!

The last 16 weeks have been the most insane roller coaster of events but praise the Lord for His faithfulness because Matthew has graduated from IBOLC! 

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Seriously, what a stud. I lucked out. 

IBOLC, or Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, is the first step in a long line of schools that any aspiring Infantry Officer must complete in order to officially become a part of this elite group. The 16 week course is designed to train these soon-to-be infantry officers every thing there is to know about effectively leading their men and also preparing them for what lies ahead at Ranger School. Matthew has had to endure everything from early morning physical training to practicing Operations Orders to long 12 mile rucks in the middle of the night. He has gotten used to having bugs and creepy crawlers as bedtime friends, 5 miles runs as a warm up, and 90F weather with 100% humidity as a “nice day”. IBOLC has indeed pushed Matthew past what he thought his limits were and has proven that it is not for the faint of heart.

There were quite a lot of officers at this graduation and I have never seen so many military men in uniform in one place! Without a doubt, the most organized graduation I’ve ever seen and after hearing so much about different people in IBOLC, it was nuts to see the whole company together. What’s a company, you say?? A company consists of everyone in Matt’s class, which is about 120 guys, and then each company is broken up into 3 platoons. This is a picture of Matt with his platoon!

 

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It should be pretty easy to find him but in case you’re having a hard time, he’s the only Asian one in this photo. In the middle. Yup, right there.

Then, each platoon is broken up into 4 squads, which consist of about 10 guys, and that is the group you spend most of your time with, whether it’s conducting missions, working on projects, or just waiting around for hours on end. Matthew was able to get really close with some of the guys in his squad and had opportunities to share the Gospel with them as well as bring them out to church.

It has by no means been a straight line to the finish but because of all the insanity and uncertainties, God receives all the more glory. There were times where we’d be on the phone with no clue how he was going to make it through the week or how he was going to be able to physically accomplish a task that proved too daunting but God remained faithful to Matthew. When he was able to finally get through it, we both knew that it wasn’t because of his own strength but only by the strength of the Lord.

In fact, here’s a snazzy little video to give you a sneak peak at what it was like to be in IBOLC! Matthew had to go through all that and much more so you can imagine how tough it is. Look out for Matthew right around 2:55…..

One of the coolest things, I think, is how God has been able to use Matthew to be a good light and witness to his fellow officers as they brave through difficulties together. As I’ve shared before, Matt’s entire purpose of going into the military is to be a missionary in a field that is very hard to reach. Sharing his faith with people who have never even heard the Gospel and quite frankly, don’t want to hear it has allowed him to see the reality and gravity of salvation. It has forced him to ask himself – Is it really necessary for me to share this Gospel with these guys? – and God has continually reminded him YES. Nothing matters more. It has been a constant encouragement for me to view the environment that God has put me in (although much more calm and far less intense) as a missions field and a battleground of spiritual warfare where opportunities to share of God’s love are endless.

 

 So What’s Next?

Lovely question. As always, we think of this more as a “If Life Went The Way We Dreamed” answer, but the general gist is 2 months of Ranger School, 1-1.5 months of specialty training, and then off to Fort Drum, New York! The reality of it though could be more like 3 or 4 months of Ranger School with some breaks in between but we really won’t know until it happens.

For now, Matthew is scheduled to leave for Ranger School on September 7th and unfortunately, that’s about all the concrete details I can give you.

I’ll post another blog soon detailing what Ranger School actually looks like as well as major prayer requests for Matthew so be on the look out for that! In the mean time, Matt still has about a week until he leaves so please call him, text him, email him, and pray for him!

 

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Congrats again, Mr. Second Lieutenant Yang! You deserve it and I couldn’t be more proud of you 🙂

 

Over and Out,

Juang