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A veteran-to-veteran storytelling project designed to let Miami Valley veterans describe their own experiences, in their own words with a special focus on stories of re-entry into civilian life.

Veterans' Voices: Finding Support On The Journey To Become A Ranger

Sam Surowitz
StoryCorps
Sam Surowitz

The Rangers are the most elite large-scale fighting force in the Army. In order to become a Ranger, one must pass a series of tests that push the body and mind to the limit. But soldiers don’t become Rangers all by themselves. Today on Veterans’ Voices, Army Ranger Sam Surowitz of Dayton remembers the support he got from his military leaders.

Transcript:

Sam Surowitz: So, my first unit that I was in, outside of training, actually in the unit, we were just doing things on a daily basis that weren’t that interesting to me. We were inventorying, you know. I remember one time we inventoried a range box, a box of things you take to the range - earplugs, cleaning oils, lubricants for the weapons. So, we were inventorying this box and they wanted to know down to the number of staples, and it seemed like a waste of time. I said, “When are we going to start training for this mission? We're going to this embassy, you know, I don't really know a lot about the country we're going to.” They said, “We’ll start about four months out from that to get ready.” I'm like, “Well, what are we doing now?” This is what we do for the next four months? Let's train. Let's do this. Let's do that. And so, my boss, who was a Sergeant at the time, said, “Hey, I think I know of a good unit for you. I think I know the unit where you’ll be happier than here.” That was the Ranger detachment. He said, “You should go try out. They're doing an assessment. I know a guy over there.” So, he put me in contact.

Then when I got to it, I went through the assessment. It was very difficult, but it was only a week long, and I made it through. So, they immediately started preparing me, this is what we're going to be doing, this is what it's like. And every day we trained every day. I felt like there was progress.

That same original squad leader that I had at that unit… After my first deployment, I was supposed to go to Ranger School. You had to be able to run a five mile in forty minutes to go to Ranger School. I remember, very specifically, I ran my five mile in over fifty minutes, either fifty-two or fifty-four minutes. I was like, I could shave a couple minutes off, but I can't shave twelve to fourteen minutes off my time. So, I talked to my squad leader and I said, “You know, Sergeant, this is my time. I’m just being honest with you. I don't think I can make it.” He just told me, “You're going to Ranger School so shave the time off. Just get faster.” He told me something, and I still think it's true to this day, which is that a lot of time in the military, when people pass up an opportunity, or try and push back an opportunity, it's hard to get the stars to align and go to Ranger School. Your unit has to be willing to send you. There has to be an open slot. There has to be funding. You have to be at the top of the order of merit list to go because there's other people that want to go. And then you have to be physically able. You have to have all the checklists done. And he just told me, “Look, in my experience, if people miss this opportunity and they don't go, they never go. So, you're just going to go.” And I did. I passed, and I got promoted after I passed Ranger School, I got promoted to Sergeant. So just after being in the military for almost two years, I made Sergeant.

A lot of people don't have that experience. A lot of people are totally qualified to be promoted and then they don't get supported by their leadership. I was lucky enough to have good leaders that empowered me to be better as an individual and be better at the tasks that I had to complete. 

Sam Surowitz told his story at WYSO as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative which visited the Miami Valley last summer. Veterans’ Voices on WYSO is presented by Wright-Patt Credit Union with additional support from CareSource. This story was edited by Tony Holloway and Will Davis and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.