FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) - The Army Ranger School is not for the faint of heart.
We took a look at what it takes to even consider putting yourself through this elite course.
More than 200 soldiers, exhausted and in pain, but still pushing through the extreme heat, cold, rain, mud, rough hills, ditches and trenches… all while getting orders yelled at them by dozens of instructors.
"We yell at them and stress them out on purpose to kind of get rid of the guys who don't want to be here," explained Major Steven Robbins, Battalion Operations Officer. "It does happen but it makes the product better. We are an assembly line just like any other Army school and we're trying to get the best product out to the force and I think we do that."
It's a weed-out process and instructors of the challenging Darby Queen Obstacle Course say they aren't yelling at them because they want them to fail – it's because they know they can succeed.
It takes a tough individual physically, but being mentally strong is arguably even more important.
"It takes that type of person who wants to challenge themselves, that's not satisfied with just doing their job, just being mediocre, that's not what we're looking for, that's not what Rangers are about; it's not a just meet the standard for the Army, this is a little bit above and beyond," said Sergeant 1st Class Gerald Nelson with Public Affairs.
You have to be ready and if you're not, someone else will make the decision for you. Ranger Instructors say they will pull a soldier from training, using their best judgement to assess someone's health.
The preparation process begins before these troops even make it to Ranger School.
"Most of the time, that's done at your units, your squad leaders, your team leaders, your platoon leaders, platoon sergeants they kind of train you and mentally prepare you for this course," Sgt. 1st Class Nelson said. "These women probably don't have anything like that, because they don't have a lot of Ranger-qualified individuals in their units to prepare them for this."
Historically, many don't make it past the first day of Ranger School's physical assessment, involving 59 sit-ups, 49 push-ups, six chin-ups and a five-mile run in 40 minutes.
"I've been deployed many times, and my ranger school experience was more difficult than anything conditions wise that I dealt with," Maj. Robbins said. "Which is good, that's what we want. It goes back to that mental endurance and preparedness to kind of fight through whatever hardships you come across and this school does that very well."
Rangers say more than half of these troops will have to re-take a phase somewhere over the nine weeks. About 60 percent of the graduates successfully complete Ranger School and more than half do not pass the Ranger Assessment Phase or "RAP" in the first five days.
Only about 20 percent of those who start Ranger School go straight through without having to retake a portion.
"The most important thing is to be mentally prepared to stay in the course longer than the 62 days we say it is," Maj. Robbins said. "Cause a lot of dudes do recycle this course. It's hard. Just being mentally prepared not to quit. Not to quit on yourself on your ranger buddies. That is the most difficult thing. Anybody can train for a marathon or train for ranger school physically. Physically we want them to execute what we want them to do. But it's really the mental preparedness and the mental endurance. At the end of the ranger course that's what we look back and say we can make it through anything and that course. Mental endurance is hard to train but most of these kids come with it and they are ready to execute."
The Ranger course is three phases, starting at Ft. Benning, then heads up to the Mountains of Dahlonega, Ga. and down to the swamps of Florida. Each phase lasts about 20 days.
"The students are going through high levels of stress, physical stress and yet they're maintaining their focus, their maintaining their pride, they want to be here, it's a whole since of group and they're doing that together to bring them even closer together," said 1st Lieutenant Alessandra Kirby, who is serving as Observer Advisor.
"At the end of the day, it's a certain type of person that wants to come to this school and put themselves through this, so whether they're male or female, they already have a pretty strong mind, so they're kind of already somewhat prepared so what I did when I came through the course, I expected the worse and prepared for the worst and when I got here, it really wasn't as bad as I thought," Sgt. 1st Class Nelson said.
There are 11 Ranger Schools offered each year and students can recycle through about eight times.
While the program is 62 days, we're told there are soldiers who have taken up to eight months to successfully complete the course.
The first week is usually the most injury-prone week. Students may go without food, sleep or showers for long periods and many times sleep directly under the stars.
This is also the first Ranger School that allows female students. They come in weighing an average of 100 to 115 pounds, but instructors say you can't measure someone's heart, drive and determination.
Of the 399 students who started the program last Monday, 184 men and eight women survived after the first week.