Throughout American history, Rangers have played a role in every major war, dating back to the first, the Revolutionary War.
At the Feb. 16 Waunakee Rotary meeting, Travis West, president of U.S. Army Ranger Association, shared his experience in Iraq and Afghanistan as an  Army Ranger. Travis is a partner in the Waunakee law firm West & Dunn, LLC, which focuses on helping veterans with claims.
Most people remember images of Army Rangers on special operations missions in Grenada and Somalia where the notable Black Hawk Down mission occurred.
When most Army veterans say they were a Ranger, they are referring to the completion of Ranger school, Travis said. Fewer have gone on to serve as a member of a Ranger Unit, as he did. The school was created during the Korean War to impart a skill set upon infantrymen. Travis said there are three phases, calling all “equally miserable.”
“A lot of people feel your school is the best and most miserable experience you never want to complete again,” he said.
The training is physical and tests soldiers’ ability to handle stress with inadequate sleep or calorie intake in a place they’d rather not be.
“It’s not uncommon for a student to lose 20 to 40 pounds,” Travis said. And many have to repeat one of the three phases, if not all.
There are four Ranger Battalions in the U.S. They are part of a Special Operations community that includes Green Berets, Navy Seals, Air Force Combat Controllers and others.
Army Rangers serve a number of functions, such as raiding a location like an airport to secure it for an Army operation. Deployments are typically three to six months, but Rangers can see 21 deployments over an entire career.
Travis recalled some of his missions during 2002 in Afghanistan. The first was July 3-4. The Rangers were flown to Jalalabad to secure an airport parking apron as a foothold to allow other units in. Three Blackhawk Helicopter teams were sent. It was not known whether the locals were friendly, but the mines left around the airport presented certain danger.
Initially, another unit on the ground was supposed to assess the locals, but when that unit was called to another mission, Travis and fellow Rangers were told to “feel it out.”
As Travis approached the airport, he could see a pair of eyes watching him from the bushes along the perimeter.
“I didn’t know if he had weapons, and there were mines everywhere,” Travis said. Admitting that the safer thing would have been just to shoot the man watching him, he opted against it.
When the man stood up holding a roll of toilet paper, Travis realized what he had been up to. Travis’ battalion was allowed to stay, perhaps because no shots were fired.
Other News:
•The Rotary Club was named the Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Non-Profit of the Year by the Chamber’s board of directors.
•The Whitetails event is Tuesday and Rex could use a few more people to help.
•Bob Sachtjen has put together a Rotary Lights guide, with instructions on where all the lights are kept.
•Volunteers are needed to travel to Sauk March 4 to pick up the new light display.
•Rotary will pay tuition for all high school sophomores who would like to attend RYLA.
•Bianca will cook a Taste of Brazil dinner as a fundraiser March 11.
•A club member is needed to attend the March 23 grant management seminar in Madison.
Guests: Cindy Patzner, guest of Ellen Schaaf; Kim Phalin, guest of Randy Herbrand; David Blanchard, guest of Mark McFarland.  
Visiting Rotarians: None.
Greeters: Feb. 23, Ken Pesik and Jim Pingel; March 2, Bob Pulvermacher and Corey Randl; March 9, Tom Roepke and David Rupp; March 16, Bob Sachtjen and Todd Schmidt.