• 07.31.98

War Is Hell Too

U.S. Army Ranger describes his training for leadership

Leading Concepts makes serious demands of its students. But those demands are nothing compared with what’s expected of real Army Rangers. Dean Hohl went through advanced training, airborne school, the Ranger indoctrination program, a post in a Ranger unit — and only then through Ranger school itself.


During the 72 days he spent there, Hohl averaged three hours of sleep a night and lived on one meal a day. But even worse than lack of sleep and constant hunger, he says, was the threat of having to do it all over again. Ranger instructors could “recycle” students at any time — that is, boot them back to day one.

Still, insists Hohl, “Rangers aren’t supermen.” So what makes them capable of such super feats? “Our operating culture. If the culture is strong, the people feel pride, involvement, and ownership.”

That culture played a role in the 1989 invasion of Panama to capture General Manuel Noriega. “When we jumped into Panama, people were landing everywhere, going in all directions,” Hohl remembers. “I landed a mile and a half from where I needed to meet up with my group. To get there, I had to cross a main airport runway under fire. I hooked up with a guy who had a radio. We were moving across a field toward the runway, and we picked up three more people from different Ranger units. Immediately we began working together as a tactical fire team and managed to cross the airfield. We knew where to employ our weapons. We knew who was going to be the team leader. We knew the commands.

“There’s not always time for consensus and debate. Under fire, you need to shoot, move, and communicate — shoot, move, and communicate.”