The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column reports that although New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Bryant “Corky” Messner describes himself as an “Army Ranger” and has graduated from the Ranger Course, he never served in the 75th Ranger Regiment and therefore is “Ranger-qualified,” but not a “Ranger.”
- Messner, who is endorsed in the primary race by President Donald J. Trump, has released advertisements which claim that “As an Army captain and Ranger during the Cold War, he led men in our battle against socialism.”
- Messner’s opponent in the primary race, Brigadier General Don Bolduc, first raised the issue. In May he said, “Unless you served in a Ranger battalion, I think you’re overstretching your claim. I’m Ranger-qualified, and I always stipulate that. I never served in a Ranger battalion.”
- The Post explains that “there’s the Ranger School, and there’s the Ranger Regiment, a Special Operations unit.” Anyone in the military can enroll in the Ranger School and complete the Ranger course, regardless of whether or not one serves in the 75th Ranger Regiment.
- Those who complete this intense 62-day small-units tactics training regiment earn the right to wear a small cloth tab on their uniform that reads “Ranger.” Typically, only about 40% of enrollees finish the course and achieve this honor.
- Messner completed the Ranger Course in 1977 and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1979. He served in the regular Army as an aviation officer. Although he earned the right to wear the tab, he did not serve as part of the Ranger Regiment.
After inquiring with the Ranger School at Fort Benning, the Post eventually received this statement from a U.S. Army Special Operations Command spokesperson:
The U.S. Army Ranger Course is the Army's premier leadership school, and falls under Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Eustis, Virginia, and is open to all members of the military, regardless of whether they have served in the 75th Ranger Regiment or completed the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. A graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger Course is Ranger qualified.
The 75th Ranger Regiment is a special operations unit with the mission to plan and conduct joint special military operations in support of national policies and objectives. The Regiment’s higher headquarters is the U.S. Army Special Operations Command located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Regiment is the Army’s largest, joint special operations force. All members of the 75th Ranger Regiment have passed the Ranger Assessment Selection Program 1, 2, or both. Anyone who is serving or has served within the 75th Ranger Regiment is a U.S. Army Ranger. (emphasis added)
“Translated,” the Post explains, “that means Messner cannot say he is an Army Ranger, only that he is ‘Ranger qualified.’”
The Post also contacted the Messner campaign, sharing this information, and received the following response from Messner:
When I was first asked about this, I was surprised that this was even a question. Nonetheless, I decided to conduct research and wanted to gather as much information as possible to accurately represent my military service. So I contacted the Army Ranger Hall of Fame, spoke to fellow members, and reached out to other Army Rangers. More recently, I received the attached response from the US Army Ranger Association.
My due diligence revealed that I and the majority of Army Rangers did not serve in the Ranger Regiment (in fact, not all Ranger Regiment members are Army Ranger School graduates), yet we are proudly considered Army Rangers due to having graduated from the United States Army Ranger School.
Based upon the statements I have gathered and set forth below, it is clear that even recent retirees of the US Army, and a former commander of the Ranger Regiment, have views different than that of the statement you provided. As for the official statement you provided, one cannot expect to go through life adapting one’s proud military service to the ever-changing designations currently used by the US Army.
- Included with Messner’s message were five statements from retired officers, including generals and colonels, who affirmed Messner’s account: that any Army Ranger course graduate can call themselves a “Ranger.”
- Retired Colonel David Fivecoat told the Post that there is some debate about the terminology and “It’s all a very subtle, nuanced thing… Should he say he was ‘Ranger-qualified’ in his ads? Probably. Maybe.”
- Fivecoat also said it would be more problematic if Messner claimed to have served in the 75th Regiment, but the Post could find no evidence he had done so.
However, there is some reason to suspect Messner’s surprise that “this was even a question” is more exaggerated than real.
- In 2016, Messner spoke at a Memorial Day event in Florida. This was “before he became a politician,” the Post explains.
- A biography describing Messner for the event relates his military service and states simply that “He also earned the Ranger tab and the Airborne and Air Assault badges,” rather than directly claim that Messner was a Ranger.