The Ranger Rendezvous is a “unit tradition to bring the entire Regiment together for the Regimental Change of Command,” meaning it takes place every two years at Ft. Benning in Georgia. The days leading up to the ceremony are filled with Ranger demonstrations and events, including an Airborne Operation, a BBQ, Unit Reunions, and the Ranger Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Two members of our team were able to attend this year– CSM (Ret) Rick Lamb, who has attended many times and has himself been inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame, and Chelsea Hamashin, who had never even been to Ft. Benning before this week.
This blog is written from Chelsea’s POV, with a few inputs from Rick along the way!
Getting to Benning
I didn’t drive up until early Tuesday morning, leaving Tampa at around 0600 and aiming for a lunchtime arrival. I still wasn’t sure what I was getting into, and was just told that I needed cocktail attire and GSF paraphernalia. In the weeks prior to the event, I was teased by the Army dudes on the staff (well, just Stu) that I’d be getting married this week and to get ready.
Obviously I had no concern about that actually happening, but I was very curious about what I was getting into!
When I crossed over what I would later learn is called “Victory Drive,” the Ft. Benning area was even more Army than I ever could have imagined. Everything on that road was “Ranger-this” or “tactical-that.” There was no doubt that I had arrived.
I never really had any concerns though, because I knew I’d be with Rick–who knows the Army and the Rangers better than anyone. After a bit of a logistical problem (did you know that there’s a “Courtyard Marriott Columbus” AND a “Courtyard Marriott Columbus-Phenix”?… I didn’t…and yes, one of us was booked at each)… we reunited and headed to the Ranger Hall of Fame Dinner.
Ranger Rick’s Take-Away:
It was always a thrill to go back to Fort Benning where it all started for so many in SOF. The pine woods, the barracks, ranges, jump towers, sawdust pits, Lawson Army Airfield, the oppressive heat, and the sand fleas bring back a mix of memories that run the gambit from dread to relief to pride and joy!
I came in with undeserved street cred because I was with Rick, a 2017 inductee of the Ranger Hall of Fame (RHOF). It never hurts to attend something with a living legend in the field. I was not surprised but was still struck by the number of people who came up to Rick and knew about his career, but then in turn by the number of people he considered to be “living legends” and was himself impressed by.
It’s a testament to this community that these men and women with such amazing accomplishments can also put down their egos and recognize the impact that their colleagues, mentors, and friends have made.
Ranger Rick’s Take-Away:
The Rangers have always placed a high degree of importance on honoring those who came before them. Ranger lineage is still taught to incoming personnel assigned to Ranger units and their contributions and sacrifices are passed down to successive generation. That’s one of the things that make them unique.
Exhibiting for the RHOF Ceremony
We had a table at “Building 4”/MCoE on Ft. Benning, which is where the RHOF Ceremony took place, along with a few other Ranger Rendezvous events. Rick was decked out in a World War II Ranger Uniform in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion and the legendary Ranger assaults on Omaha Beach and Pointe Du Hoc. It was the maiden voyage of one of our new GSF signs, which was cool, but it certainly wasn’t about our table. I think we might have spent a total of 15 minutes at our table.
It’s great to have as a hub, to bring people to for photo ops or to give them a flyer about something we discussed, but the event was about talking to people. And since we do have a new(-ish) platform to immortalize those discussions–we used this opportunity to record some new episodes of our GSF podcast: SOFspot.
We recorded almost two hours of new material–three podcasts worth–with representatives from Three Rangers Foundation, The Darby Project, and with Army Ranger Veteran Tony Mayne. They were awesome discussions, primarily focused on professional development and transition for special operators with a distinctively Ranger twist. It was great to be around people who were passionate about supporting their community, past, present and future.
The RHOF Ceremony itself was very cool. I could talk about it for a while, but I’ll vector it down to three take-aways:
1. The announcer had the most radio-genic (not a word, but should be) voice I’ve heard in my entire life. He seriously sounds like what someone would procure as a radio voice, if they could.
2. The sense of tradition is unsurprisingly strong… from the recitation of the Ranger Creed to the use of Taps and the Anthem, to the venue itself.
3. The 16 inductees (or their posthumous proxies) were so impressive, whether in their actions or as speakers. From the son of SGM William Lubbers (who was killed rescuing civilians after a tragic train accident during a Veteran’s Day parade in 2012), to Ms. Sheila Dudley (who received an honorary induction from her years as a secretary for her service to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and received some of the biggest applause in the crowd), to LTC(R) J.D. Kirby (who clearly missed his calling as a stand-up comedian)… it was an amazing group of people.
Networking around the Base
One of my favorite parts of the event was seeing the various Unit Reunions… for example, a “fan favorite” of mine were Steve and Karen Murphy. Steven Murphy is a Vietnam Ranger Veteran, and he was also Rick’s Platoon Sergeant early in his career.
Murph was hilarious–just a fun-loving guy, but Rick reflected multiple times throughout the week about how he didn’t realize what a gem of a leader he had at that time in his life until he was years removed from the experience – and realized he was acting just like SFC Murphy.
Despite being surrounded by so many amazing men this week, Karen may have been the most impressive–she has a phone full of pictures going back to the 1960s, she remembers years and dates and names like nobody’s business, and she loves every minute of it. She’s also incredibly generous– she’d pull me aside and kindly ask if I knew who this General was and what he did, and fill me in when I (clearly) did not.
Karen is the stereotypical “Rock” that kept Murph grounded, tried to keep Rick out of trouble, and helped make her Rangers successful.
Another moment that I’ll never forget came when Rick won a Raffle Prize at one of the social events–for a commemorative Granite Paver to be placed on the National Infantry Museum walk. To protect anonymity, I won’t say any names, but he quickly decided he would record the name of an Army Ranger who was KIA in AFG on the Paver, and dedicate it to the Ranger’s Mother whom he had met in Normandy.
Not two minutes after he made that decision, we struck up a conversation with a 1-star who was also attending the social. It quickly came to light that the 1-star had been the commanding officer when the young Ranger had been killed, and he knew in an instant the mother’s name, contact info, the Ranger’s KIA date, and multiple other details around the event. It had been nearly a decade, and he remembered everything immediately. Goose bump city, people.
Ranger Rick’s Take-Away:
Ranger Rendezvous was as unique as the organization that sponsors it. It is a testament to the pride and commitment that makes the Rangers who they are. The GSF will definitely be going back next year and contribute to making their organizations and network successful in any way we can!
Rangers Lead the Way!