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Pushing past his limits: SFS Airman earns Ranger tab

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dallas Rodgers, 701st Munitions Support Squadron NCO in-charge of operations, graduated from the U.S. Army Ranger School November 16, 2018. During the 61-day course, Rodgers and his teammates trained to the point of exhaustion, pushing the limits of their minds and bodies.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dallas Rodgers, 701st Munitions Support Squadron NCO in-charge of operations, graduated from the U.S. Army Ranger School November 16, 2018. The course, incorporates three phases; Benning, Mountain and Swamp, which follow the crawl, walk, run training methodology. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dawn Weber)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --

Since its start in Sept. 1950, the U.S. Army Ranger School is among the toughest training courses throughout the U.S. military branches. Ranger cadets train continuously for 61 days to the point of exhaustion, pushing the limits of their minds and bodies.

A few years after its conception, the Army began to accept the applications of U.S. Airmen. In 2018, U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Dallas Rodgers, 701st Munitions Support Squadron NCO in-charge of operations, applied for the training and became one of only 300 Airmen in history to complete the elite school and earn the Ranger tab.

Since childhood he dreamt of being an Army Ranger, the opportunity arose and Rodgers graduated November 16, 2018. He is one of 67 Active Duty Airmen wearing the Ranger tab today.

“While stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy, as an Airman 1st Class, I met a Ranger-qualified non-commissioned officer,” Rodgers said. “He was such a positive leader, always lead by example and did the right thing. For the duration of my career, I have tried to emulate his leadership style and a few months ago, I was finally given an opportunity to apply and attend Ranger School.”

After acceptance he had to first attend a preparation course at 435th Training Section, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Upon completion he traveled to Fort Bliss, Texas, for the Ranger Assessment Course and was one of the few Airmen in the course to receive a “GO” for Ranger School.

Rodgers said training daily with less than an hour of sleep and being unable to talk to his family were by far the most mentally taxing aspects of the training. However, it was after losing weight during the qualification courses that Rodgers had to dig deep to find the motivation to keep going.

“It became physically harder after I lost 20 pounds moving into the mountain phase, climbing very steep terrain while carrying heavy ruck sacks. That never got easier,” Rodgers said. “Looking back now, the mountain and swamp movement were the most taxing physical aspects for me. I had to reach pretty far inside myself to find the strength and motivation to get past how ridiculously hard that was. I couldn’t have done it without the overwhelming support I had from family and friends, especially my wife, Amie and my supervisor.”

Mother Nature also assisted in making the already demanding course even more difficult. Rodgers and the other cadets faced two hurricanes. The first hit during the beginning of the mountain training phase, raining for five straight days.

“That was the most miserable part of my experience. We weren’t really given a chance to dry off and some of us developed serious feet issues from it. One of our Ranger instructors would tell us, ‘You can’t say Ranger without rain,’ I suppose that was meant to be motivation for us.”

Rodgers said his team relied heavily on one another for strength and motivation to get through what they considered the most difficult experiences of their lives.

Rather than acting like he knew what he was doing, he studied as much as he could, learning the information as quickly as possible. Rodgers wanted to be able to focus on helping those who were struggling and be an example in training and after.

“Every instructor I spoke with during my training said that earning the tab is the easy part. Wearing the tab and bearing the weight of what comes with it will be the hard part. Airmen lower ranking, and even some higher ranking, will watch how you react to situations and then emulate how you handle yourself.”