GOWEN FIELD, Idaho --
“I think I didn’t get it,” said Master Sgt. Douglas Brock, a tactical air control party craftsman assigned to the 124th Air Support Operations Squadron in Boise, Idaho. “I didn’t get my look and this is going to have to happen all over again. I’m going to recycle.”
Brock was almost to the end of his journey to become the first graduate of ranger training in 124th ASOS history. Although there have been prior service ranger-tab-wearers in the squadron, no one has graduated directly from the unit until now.
The road to this moment for Brock wasn’t a typical one. He hadn’t thought much about ranger school, but when a fellow Airman asked if Brock wanted to put in for it, he agreed. To their surprise, they were both accepted in early 2018.
“Another Airman in my unit did the legwork and got us seats and I give him all the credit for opening this door for me,” said Brock.
Unfortunately due to a government shutdown, Brock’s seat at the school was cancelled, but his interest in becoming a ranger didn’t fade from his mind.
“I went to the NCO Academy and that’s where I thought, ‘I need to do this,’” said Brock.
He got everything lined up and ended up securing another seat. Soon, Brock departed out of Boise for Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the ranger pre-qualification courses.
“I was very anxious,” said Brock. “There were a lot of nerves and I didn’t know what to expect. I was also very excited to the point that I wasn’t eating.”
Although Brock didn’t know what to expect, when he arrived in Columbus, Georgia he quickly found out he wasn’t alone.
“We all had two to three large green duffle bags and we all had shaved heads,” said Brock. “I began to piece together that we all were going to the same place.”
In order to qualify for ranger school, hopefuls must complete a pre-ranger course. Brock chose to attend the Army’s Ranger Testing and Assessment Course where he hoped to blend in.
“I get to RTAC and there’s 120 of us who show up in PT gear,” said Brock. “I’m the only one in Air Force PT gear.”
Everyone had questions about the Air Force guy, but it didn’t faze him.
“I had all this pressure of being the oldest guy and the Air Force guy, but really everyone’s on the same playing field,” said Brock.
The two-week course was over before he knew it and Brock was ready to attempt to move forward to ranger school.
“There’s no guarantee you’ll get a slot in ranger school after RTAC,” said Brock. “I walked over to ranger school and stood in formation for hours and finally got selected to stay.”
The initial course candidates were separated into three companies, each of which complete three phases of schooling. The first phase focused on individual performance.
“The first phase is pretty cutthroat,” said Brock. “The first week is the ranger assessment phase and it’s all individual-based training. It’s not easy and I thought to myself, ‘what did I just get involved with.’”
Being the outsider wasn’t easy.
“It was a pretty painful process for me during the first three weeks,” Brock said. “I asked a lot of questions because I didn’t know the Army lingo. There was a lieutenant who took me under his wing and helped me all the way to graduation. This was the perfect example of how the Army and Air can work together.”
Ranger school isn’t easy, but there was one thing that was particularly tough for Brock.
“Motivation was the hardest part,” he said. “Despite the fact that you are completely worked over, you have no food in your system, you haven’t slept in I don’t know how many hours and you still need to operate. You still need to function. You have to find a way to not only motivate yourself, but also the rest of the guys in the company to stay focused and get the job done.”
The rigors of the course took a toll on every company member. It was more than camping and playing in the dirt with the Army.
“Every phase you have an evaluation and you get two looks during each phase,” said Brock. “You have to pass one of them to move on.”
Through the exhaustion, hunger and increased pressures of the course, one memory stood out for Brock.
“I got my first assessment in the third phase and failed it,” he said. “We were on a 10-day field training exercise and I finally got my second look on day eight. They don’t tell you right away if you pass. They wait an entire day.”
The waiting wasn’t easy. What made it more difficult was watching two of his fellow teammates receive bad news.
“Both of these guys got an hour debrief and I can see what’s going on and they are getting berated,” said Brock. “I’m thinking about it and stressing. I can feel the tears in my eyes.”
The other guys were finally done and Brock couldn’t wait any longer. Eager to hear his fate, he approached the ranger instructor.
”Let’s cut to it, did I pass?” asked Brock.
The instructor was shocked, but put his hand out to shake Brock’s and said, “You got your go.”
That simple statement from his instructor gave Brock immense relief. This moment and more motivated him during the 62-day course.
“Every day I was struggling and it was hard to put one foot in front of the other,” said Brock. “I kept thinking about April 5 and being at Victory Pond with my dad putting the tab on.”
Brock graduated as the course’s enlisted honor graduate April 5, 2019 as the first ranger to be qualified directly from the 124th ASOS.
His father pinned his tab on and his goal to become a ranger was complete. His experience culminated in words of wisdom for his fellow Airmen.
“If you truly want something bad enough, there’s truly nothing that can get in your way and stop you,” said Brock. “If you want to go do something, establish a program or plan and then make it happen. There’s no excuses. You can do it.”