Service Reflection: Veteran reflects on life as Army Ranger

Service Reflection: Veteran reflects on life as Army Ranger

Army Together We Served


By Completing Your Reflections!

Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Profile Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.

Start Your Reflections Today!

Editor’s note: The following is from, an exclusive veterans network featuring more than two million members. This story may contain some offensive language and may not be suitable for young children.

SSG Heriberto RuizSierra
Status: USA Veteran
Service Years: 2005-2014

Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Army.

A Day We Will Never Forget

My decision to join was motivated by many things. I recalled the NATO Kosovo conflict and how our military was involved in the war in Kosovo. I also recalled the 35 years of services my Father, Jose A. Ruiz Rivera AKA "PAPO" provided in supporting operations with US Federal authorities such as DEA, ATF, and as a Criminal Investigation Corps (CIC) as a Special Agent. Also, the Terrorist attack of 9/11 opened my eyes to the evil our country was facing as a whole.

The combination of family, education, and foreign conflict in our country was the patriotic energy that motivated me to volunteer to sacrifice my life for our flag.

Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?

My Army Recruiter SSG Ferguson offered me a Cryptologic Linguistic Spanish (QB) position with a $20,000 sign- in bonus. I enlisted in New York City. I was then taken to Fort Leonard Wood for Basic Training, where I earned the Physical Fitness Award for class 2-10 and got promoted to PFC (E-3).

As with most 98 series, the first portion of my military career was devoted to becoming qualified in the job skills and linguistic specialization. I achieved the highest graduating qualification GPA percentage of 98.8% and winning the Iron Soldier Award. I joined the Army as a PVT (E-1) and was promoted to PFC (E-3) before I had finished my Advanced Individual Training (AIT).

After intense training, I reported to Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, for the Advance Tactical Electronic Warfare Course. I had the opportunity to compete and earned the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge in Gold.

I then reported to Lackland, AFB, where I conducted my wartime mission day in and day out in support of Strategic Intelligence. I served one long four-year tour in San Antonio, TX, during which I mastered and became a subject area Expert with an understanding of intelligence and leadership. By the time I left, I had learned to operate not only as a 98G, but also as a Transcriber, Reporter, All- Source Analyst, Geospatial Analysis, and served as a Team Leader, Squad Leader and Section Ops Sergeant on the floor.

When I was leaving Lackland, I was originally supposed to have gone to Fort Drum. However, my unit was supporting combat operations overseas and selected me to extend my mission essential tour, so my orders were delayed. After declining my orders to Ft. Drum, I was put on orders to stay at Lackland Air Force Base to serve as a SIGINT instructor. I spent years teaching both the SHARP PT Instructor for overweight Soldiers, Army Spanish Course, and Joint Non-Target Language Course. I was selected Soldier of the Quarter during that time. I also became part of the Joint Color Guard and completed many funerals, retirement, Army Ball, promotion, and multiple society military parades and events. In a short time I advanced my career to SSG (E-6) within a four (4) year time frame.

When I was coming up on my last year at Lackland, AFB, I attended a recruiting brief with the Soldiers from Ft. Sam Houston and the 470th MI BN. Shortly after that, I submitted a packet to attend the Ranger Orientation Program for selection to the 75th Ranger Regiment. I was successful and spent the best years of my career as an Operational SIGINT Team (OST) assistant Team Sergeant, Team Sergeant, and S2 instructor for the Quick Start Program.

Having filled the one position available at my grade, I PCSed to the 7th Special Forces Group, where I was projected to fill the role of ACT-T Team Sergeant (a training and standardization for the unit's 35Ps or known as SOT-A and SOT-B Soldiers). At the time, the unit was going through a transition where the MID was to become an MI Company. I spent most of the next year setting up systems and saving the Special Forces money by becoming part of the training team. I also participated as SOCP (Special Operations Combatives Program), the Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat (SFAUC) Course Shoot House Instructor, and a language trainer.

If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which made a lasting impact on you and, if life-changing, in what way?

The rescue operation that was dubbed Jaque, which means "check," as in checkmate, in Spanish. The U.S. military contractors - Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell -had been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia since their drug-surveillance plane went down in the jungle in February 2003. Nowhere in the world have American hostages currently in captivity been held longer, according to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.

Also, from the strategic experience, I mastered a serious skill set that allowed me to advance into the Tactical hostile environment. That meant that I was ready to join the 75th Ranger Regiment, Regimental Special Troops Battalion, since they were newly adapting their own Intelligence capabilities. "The 75th Regimental Special Troops Battalion (RSTB) was provisionally activated on 17 July 2006 and officially activated on 16 October 2007 as a response to the demands of the War on Terror and the changing nature of Ranger operations." The activation of the RSTB provides the Ranger Regiment and Special Operations Command with increased operational capabilities to sustained combat operations.

The RSTB conducts Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance functions in support of the 75th Ranger Regiment and other Special Operation Task Forces to enable the execution of Joint Special Operations anywhere in the world." I had the opportunity to bring my Strategic skill set to the 75th Ranger Regiment, RSTB OST teams during peacetime and wartime.

I completed two full rotations and supported all 3 Ranger line Battalions. I had the opportunity to meet and work around the best leadership in JSOC, such as Admiral William H. McRaven, ISAF Commander Army Gen. John F. Campbell, and 75th Ranger Regiment commander, and Col. Christopher S. Vanek to name a few. I also had the opportunity to be part of the 75th Ranger Regiment 30th Anniversary. I had the honor to speak to 38th Chief of Staff of the Army, General Raymond Thomas "Ray" Odierno before he retired, and he held my hands and told me, "Thank You for your outstanding service." He was humble and very supportive of my military service.

Finally, I had the best experience in my life working with the "specially selected and well-trained Soldiers" (Ranger Creed). I learned from the Private all the way up the Chain of Command. They are the best hard-working men, and they all provided the best mentor-ship and made me a better Ranger.

Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of, and why? Which was your least favorite?

The fondest memories I have are working for the 75th Ranger Regiment. I truly have become a Soldier who never complains or talks bad about any specific unit. I have had no negative or bad experiences in the Army. I have learned to accept responsibility for the outcome of my actions as a leader. After completing the Ranger Orientation Program, and I was selected to be part of the 75th Ranger Regiment RSTB, MICO. I began to understand what challenges I had coming my way as a Ranger.

I served with the best men in my life. I saw the true Army values displayed in every Ranger I crossed paths with. Every Ranger was fit, highly trained, and motivated. I found myself being challenged in ways that no other Army unit had pushed me to be. I saw more potential in me, and I saw the leadership fighting in close combat and caring for their Rangers.

I have to say I deployed twice as an OST, and I participated in numerous high-level hostile operations that I still ask myself, "how did I do all that." I was heartbroken by losing many Rangers lives in combat. So many Rangers that walk, laugh, did PT, challenge our self's to live the Ranger life, to experience the Ranger life, something more special than just the Ranger Tab. The impact of accepting the loss and the challenges of many Airborne Rangers in the sky.

I miss you all; I love you all. I don't know how to explain my feelings about all the men that sacrificed their lives, but they are all God's Warriors looking after us Rangers here in combat.

From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.

In Basic Training, I had a female Drill Sergeant named Grace. On day Zero, she began to smoke me because she said I had an attitude. She said I was looking at her with this New York attitude that didn't help me at all. I learned quickly I had to be on point and watch my behavior. I found it funny how quickly I was being trained.

In AIT, I had a new Soldier that failed Airborne School, and he was put in my room in Goodfellow, AFB. I notice that the Soldier was very messy, and he had made the room very dirty. I got tired of his laziness, and I took all his dirty clothes, his dirty kitchen plates, all his belongings and I threw it everywhere in the room. I took shaving cream, and I put it all over his belongings. When he came to our room, I told him the Drill Sergeant came and destroyed our room because he was dirty and had very poor hygiene. He was so scared and so nervous he began to cry.

As the days passed, I noticed he never made a mess, and he became so clean and so attention to detail and proactive. When we were graduating from AIT, our Drill Sergeant came to speak to us and congratulated us. He suddenly told female Drill Sergeant Padilla, "thank you, Drill Sergeant, for teaching me a lesson and for throwing my belongings all over the room because I was not clean." Drill Sergeant Padilla's face was stunned and confused. The Private told Drill Sergeant I told him that. Drill Sergeant Padilla than smoked the shit out of me because she knew I did it. After the 30-minute smoking session, we all laughed.

In the 314th MI BN, I was rushing to the BX, and I parked my car in the first empty spot I saw. I then realized I was parked in the Commanders parking spot. I quickly began to reverse my car when suddenly a tall civilian came to me and began to scream to me about what it takes to earn that parking spot. I then told him I am already out, and I realized I was wrong. So I left to go to my barracks as he began to scream some more.

The next day I was told by my Platoon Sergeant and 1SG that the Lackland AFB Commander wanted to see me with my CSM. When I saw my CSM, he was telling me to be ready to take it like a man because that man I was exchanging words with at the BX was the AFB Base CDR. Yes, my CSM couldn't stop laughing, and he just told me to be respectful. I couldn't believe I ran into that scenario.

During PT, I used to run so hard my eyes will roll to the back of my brain, and Soldiers called me crazy eyes.

During my NCO times, I made Soldiers write the importance of Army values, failing to properly secure a weapon and Leadership FM 22-100 to me. I made Soldiers write essays because that's what my leadership made me do. So I always laugh because I understood why my leaders it did for me, and now my leadership style emulates them.

In Ranger Regiment during Infil, I fell in a river with all my equipment because I didn't see the small ladder to cross the river. One Ranger buddy behind me grabbed me and pulled me out. SGT Ogden was making fun of me and laughing at me because it truly was funny. The next day during Exfil, I saw SGT Ogden falling in the same river I fell and during daylight, so it was the funniest thing I ever experience in the 75th Ranger Regiment. We both keep going at it until we got tired. Another Ranger buddy during Exfil forgot and left the DF Antenna on the target area. That is the biggest DF antenna the PRD-13 has and is truly very impossible to forget or to ignore because it is bigger than a basketball.

Many more stories to tell.

What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?

As an intelligence professional in strategic and tactical experience, I learned the importance of performing your job and paying attention to detail. Just like in WWI, the needs of the Intelligence capabilities were quickly recognized to defeat the enemy. In our history, we can see that "In June of 1917, the first U.S. signals intelligence agency was formed within the Army. It is known as "MI-8". The agency was charged with decoding military communications and providing codes for use by the U.S. military. In 1919, at the end of the war, the agency was transferred to the State Department. Known as the "Black Chamber," it focused on diplomatic rather than military communications. In 1921, the Black Chamber celebrated perhaps its most significant success by decrypting certain Japanese diplomatic traffic. The intelligence gained from this feat was used to support U.S. negotiators at a Washington conference on naval disarmament. Yet, despite such successes, President Hoover decided that the State Department's interception of diplomatic cables and correspondence could not be tolerated. Apparently agreeing with the alleged, yet an oft-quoted statement of his Secretary of State, Henry Stimson, that "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail," Hoover returned the agency to a military orientation under the Army Signal Corps."

Similar to Task Force Operations in Kandahar nowadays, I was very focused with close attention to an enemy attack that resulted in stopping an enemy sniper position that was attacking our Rangers in combat in Kandahar, Province. I was part of this big operation as the citation brief as Peney was part of a helicopter assault team that had secured the compound on the night of May 31. Shortly after dawn the next day, the Rangers found themselves under heavy attack from three different directions. The intense fire critically wounded a Team Leader on the rooftop.

Pinned down by enemy fire, the squad called for medic Peney to treat the wounded soldier.

He climbed the ladder up to the rooftop, and then while he was climbing, he was shot and mortally wounded, Fisher said. He would make it on top of the roof, and that is where he collapsed. I then went up to take care of Jon and the other injured Ranger. We were able to treat them as much as possible. (, 2014). As an Operation SIGINT Team-3 (OST) attach to D Co 2nd Platoon 1/ 75th Ranger Bn, I provided the most valuable piece of information to the battle commander MAJ. Works who then took all real-time information to pinpoint and coordinate an A-10 gun run that neutralized the enemy position killing all snipers enemies in the area.

I am so proud of this award because I assisted in the killing of all enemy that hurt our Rangers on that day. As painful as this was for our families and me, I sleep well, knowing the Ranger Regiment took the time to recognized me for my skill set. Always do your "100% and then some".

All respect to OST-3, RSTB, the Regiment and all of SGT Peney's family and friends.

Rangers lead the way!

Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or other memorabilia, which one is the most meaningful to you and why?

Following graduation from the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program in August 2009, I was assigned to Mico Company, RSTB, 75th Ranger Regiment, where I served as an OST member. In 2011 I was taken out of the 5th RTB Mountain Phase due to an administrative unit recall with a return date. It was the best experience ever for me. I got to see how easy Ranger school was. Yes, it is driven by leadership and like the high standards of the Blue Book and all 75th Ranger Regiment personnel. This was the best I ever completed. I was in the top 5 in the big Army since RSTB opened in 2006 that held 35PQB and V code. I also had the opportunity to serve, train, and deploy with all 3 Ranger line Battalions. This truly was and still is in my blood and I will never quit calling myself a Ranger.

There have been many spirited debates on the internet, in clubs, and elsewhere on exactly who is and is not a Ranger. The debate comes down to two issues tab or scroll. I have read some pretty scathing comments from Scroll wearers about how they are the only ones worthy of the title Ranger.

I attribute part of this to maturity. The majority of those posting about the importance of the scroll, only have the scroll. Suspicions arise when individuals who only have one version decry the other. And more importantly, if you don't care about the tab, why are you complaining in the first place?

The Army, with a bit of institutional wisdom on its side, has stated that a Ranger is identified by the G (ranger) and V (ranger parachutist) skill qualification identifier. In the regulation AR614-200 par 5-4, there is one distinction between the Ranger Training Brigade, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and everyone else, and that word is Duty. A Ranger, as signified by the G or V on their MOS, can volunteer for Ranger duty. The term Ranger qualified is often used by those who are choosing to be deliberately obtuse and make the argument that it means qualified to become but are not officially a Ranger. Being a Ranger is a bit like being pregnant; you cannot be a little bit pregnant.

The distinction, which can validly be made, is the difference in duty. Rangers in the Regular Army forces are leaders in regular army line units. Rangers with duty in the 75th Ranger Regiment are Special Operations. Therefore, calling someone with a tab an operator is incorrect. You need a scroll to be considered an operator. The tab or the scroll makes you a Ranger.

There is a more important point. Why should there be any argument at all? To wear a tab or a scroll, you have to be vetted using some of the most, if not the most, stringent criteria in the world. It looks pretty stupid when outsiders see this internal bickering.

Is the 75th Ranger Regiment special, absolutely? With the money, Regiment gets for training, ammunition, and the selection process, you better damn well be special. The Regiment has advantages that regular army units can only imagine. There is a point as to why there are only three Battalions. They spend money equivalent to brigades or better in training dollars and mission dollars.

The regiment has the best equipment and hand-selected soldiers, and they fire more rounds of ammunition per year than units three times their size because they are operators, and they are supposed to.

Regular units cannot pick and choose personnel, they have to contend with training distractors that no one even bothers the Regiment with, and they have to deal with equipment that was old before some of the privates were even born.

So who has the harder leadership challenge and arguably the best need for it? Every man in the Regiment had to volunteer at least three times to get there, and for those with a Tab, they had to do it one more time. So a Ranger outside of Regiment had to volunteer just as much. And they have to put those skills to work.

How difficult is it to lead the cream of the crop in the same direction when everyone is highly motivated? Leadership in Regiment is keeping control of commandos who not only want to do their job but want to do it so badly they can taste it, and their entire ethos is about being the most efficient lethal crew on the planet.

Leading a regular army unit, where they only had to volunteer once, and most regret that, is a bit more challenging. The variety of issues is a problem in itself, and you have to attempt to motivate people who could care less. Leaders try to get the unit to meet the minimum standard and improve from there.

The regiment gets rid of those who only meet the minimum. Think about it.

There was a big dustup when the Army announced that women would be allowed to attend Ranger School. And those who graduate will be Rangers. They cannot volunteer for Ranger Duty yet, so they are not operators.

I have heard some vicious diatribe about that as well. I have met a candidate for the March class. I was impressed by her motivation and her dedication. Why? She was not doing it because it would make her a first. She wanted to be a Ranger for the same reasons that everyone else who went to the school or to a Regiment wanted to be a Ranger.

As a Ranger, who spent all his time in the Regular Army, I can tell you that I would not have a problem with any woman Officer who was a Ranger. For one thing, I have been trained to deal with whatever life has thrown at me. I will match my adaptability to anyone in the Regiment all damn day long. The problem with the Regiment is you deal with perfection daily, and you have a very difficult time dealing with anything else. That is why when someone leaves the Regiment, they fight tooth and nail to get back. And if they stay, they have to be re-programmed.

You do not understand the Regular Army, and you don't know how good you have it. The second reason I would willingly accept a female Ranger is because I have faith that the leadership that the individual will learn will be a valuable addition to any unit.

Regular units improve standards by small metrics, not by significant changes normally. A female Ranger in a unit command structure is automatically going to increase the internal effort just as an object lesson. The internal competition will improve the group. And that officer will understand the difference between mind and body in a way that only a Ranger can. She will push harder, lead better, and impart those skills to her unit. How is this losing proposition?

In today's ever-changing battlefield, do we dare deny the best leadership training in the world for the women of our force just because of their gender? If you answered yes to that question, get out of my Army.

At the end of the debate, there is only this, both the tab and the scroll say, Ranger. One is a leader among the masses trained in an ethos of perseverance, dedication, and sacrifice. The other is a member of the best infantry the world has ever seen, small in number, but ferocious in skill, intent, and competence.

They are both Brothers. If you believe in the ethos and the creed, then there should not be arguments unless they are in fun, and you can allow the girls to join the club because if they can prove themselves, then they deserve to belong.

Who am I? I have a tab that I wore proudly every day since my graduation in 1989, to 2011 when I retired. Back in the day, two of my Platoon Sergeants came from Regiment, and one of them recently retired as a CSM from a Battalion of the Regiment. They never made the statement that a tab was worth less than a scroll.

So what is it going to be? Rangers are operators in Regiment and leaders in the big Army, or are we going to continue to make our heritage irrelevant by internal bickering that is ultimately pointless?

I lived the Ranger life every day and by the Ranger creed until I die.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

It's hard to select one or two individuals because since I joined, I have had great leadership in my Chain Of Command, and they all deserved the credit. We all have different leadership styles.

I have to follow my experiences from the US Embassy all the way to the 75th Ranger Regiment. I have to say all Rangers from the Private to the highest-ranking provided me with guidance, motivation, and training.

I can name a few such as The "Godfather" of OST 1SG Jenning Ian, now Lethiecq, Jamie, SGM, OST 1,2, and 3 leadership and team members from 2009 to 2011. I have to say I worked with and around the best leadership of JSOC in 2010 and 2011 during my deployments.

I met the retired United States Army General who served as the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army, General Raymond Thomas "Ray" Odierno at the 30th Annual Ranger Memorial. He spoke to me for about 5 minutes, and he provided me as a Veteran with the best advice and leadership verbal counseling statement. He told me, "Thank you for your service SSG Ruiz" after I introduce myself, he told me, "you have served with the best of the best a Ranger for life," and then he took my hand and hugged me like a father. He was very humble, and he taught me to put aside ego, pride, and craziness because we all are fighting for the same goal our flag and our freedom.

What profession did you follow after your military service, and what are you doing now? If you are currently serving, what is your present occupational specialty?

I have been able to complete 2 Associates Degrees, 1 Bachelors in Project Management Technology, and now I am currently working on completing my Master's degree in Cybersecurity from The University Of West Florida. I have been busy with jobs OCONOS/CONOS.

One thing that is better to have is formal education because Military background is a guaranteed positive, but not everyone can say they completed Civilian Education.

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career? What do you miss most about your time in the service?

July 4 Celebration

Since I was little, my passion has been helping others around me. I truly believe in the Army value Selfless Service - "Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own." I have always been myself, and I function in selfless service to the public, nation, and society's best interests.

Having the opportunity to have served in the military since the attack on September 11, 2001. I still see myself continuing to provide services to civilian and military personnel and complete the mission. I have worked in civil service at the local, state, and federal levels supporting our troops.

Finally, I have served for my children Eddie Sebastian Ruiz, Anina Celeste Mrosek, Arianna Chloe Ruiz, and Isabella Sophia Angelys Ruiz, the best task a father can have to continued to influence their development and growth around all Army values and disciplines.

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Army?

As a young civilian, you won't understand how the military works. All you know is going to high school and maybe college. The one special value to have is the one the military can't teach you, and that is the inner personal courage to think and to tell yourself, "I am going to join the Armed Forces. That my fellow brothers is what we all experience, and that is the main goal when entering the military workforce.

As you go through the process, just relax and follow others. Don't over react or act silly. The fun is just about to begin. All you will do is get in awesome physical shape, eat healthily, and have the best training you can have to better your self as a man or woman.

Always give 100% never do the minimum. Always volunteer, accept challenges but don't feel bad if you can't get it accomplished or win everything. Apply all the Army values that will set you for success.

Finally, don't just focus on one area of your career field MOS selection you pick. Remember, there are two important sides to all this and perfect balance. You need strategic and tactical experience to fully understand how the military works. This will enable you to promote and excel in your career.

In what ways has helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.

This is the best way to stay in touch even after you die. I have so many friends that I have notified about this website. This will help me stay in touch and help me in the future to network with other Soldiers and friends. This platform will enable good communication with service members that you share important timelines in your life with.

Thank you all, and I look forward to staying in touch, and please feel free to contact me for more be, know, do counseling.

SSG Ruiz radio check, over.

Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!

Follow us on social media!

Facebook: Stars and Stripes Pacific
Flipboard: Stars and Stripes Community Sites

Looking to travel while stationed abroad? Check out our other Pacific community sites!
Stripes Japan
Stripes Korea
Stripes Guam

Recommended Content

Around the Web