The Fourth Phase of Ranger School

The Social Aspect of Leadership

It’s not the Desert Phase at Dugway Proving Ground; at least, it’s not anymore. The “Fourth Phase” of Ranger School is an abstract construct that transcends geographic location. It is continuous. For some, it starts when they first arrive. For others, it started well before, while attending Pre-Ranger. It is going on during RAP Week, as you shiver your way out of Victory Pond or break ice into Malvesti. The phase is well underway as you traverse the Darby Queen Obstacle Course. It is providing the most significant impacts on your overall success as you side-slope your way “one more hill, one more “click” through the mountains of Dahlonega, GA. Success in the Fourth Phase will see you through The Weaver in the swamps of Florida. If you make it to Graduation Day, it will have determined whether you are standing there alone in success or standing beside your peers in a team triumph. What is this Fourth Phase?

Social Intelligence

When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.” -Daniel Goleman; Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

Social Intelligence (SI) is an emerging theme in economic, military, business, and various organizational priorities. Successful leaders understand IQ does not always correlate to organizational success.  The Fourth Phase of Ranger School is the ongoing evaluation of an individual’s Social Quotient. Formally, we know it as “The Peer System.” At the end of each phase, every Ranger Student fills out a peer evaluation on his or her squad/platoon, ranking everyone but themselves in order from first to last. The Instructors compile the evaluations to find each student’s average peer rating. If the rating is below a certain threshold that student is in danger of switching companies, recycling the phase, starting the school from the beginning, or being dropped from the course completely.

In most cases we only consider peer evaluations as they were just described above – a threshold we must pass to make sure we aren’t dropped from the course. But, the Fourth Phase provides a much deeper assessment and the opportunity for self-assessment. Under the Army’s old “Be-Know-Do” construct, we referred to this as “Know One’s Self and Seek Self Improvement”. The Fourth Phase provides that opportunity.

Infantry Magazine: SI in U.S. Army Ranger School

In 2015, I wrote and published a paper in Infantry Magazine titled “SI In U.S. Army Ranger School”. It related academic theory to real world application through personal experiences. The paper established a construct of “the 3 Ps” to demonstrate the importance of interpersonal leadership.  I believe the average upbringing teaches principles, putting people first, and the practice of these beliefs (the 3 Ps). Ranger School elevated their importance in my mind. My experiences there revealed some of my flaws and shortcomings through hardship, the hills, and my peers.

If this topic interests you, please click HERE to find the Infantry Magazine article in its entirety. Social Intelligence doesn’t require flawless congruence in the 3 Ps. As you will see in the article – I was far less than perfect in these areas, and I still am today. The grace of my Ranger Buddies and a personal hunger to improve saw me through.  Thankfully this is a practice my peers, superiors, and those I lead still carry on today.

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