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NEWS | Dec. 7, 2023

Kentucky Guardsman Completes Ranger School on First Go 

By Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Crane, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

FRANKFORT, Ky. – There are many leadership schools that service members can attend but few are more challenging than the U.S. Army Ranger School, where perfection is the standard, and nothing less is accepted.

That’s what faced Kentucky Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Dustin McKie-Miller when he decided to go to Ranger School. He aced every challenge on his first attempt and finished the course in 62 days, the shortest time possible for training, crediting both luck and skill.  

A Ranger is a part of the Army’s premier infantry force. They specialize in conducting raids and infiltration missions deep inside enemy territory. To become a Ranger is no easy task. One must undergo grueling training to ensure they have the mental toughness, physical fitness, moral character and motivation to endure the challenges they may face in combat.

“At graduation, we’re told that only somewhere between 10 and 20% of Ranger students complete the course straight through,” he said. “The vast majority of those who complete the training have recycled (started over) at least one phase at some point.” 

McKie-Miller decided to go to the training after a lot of the friends he had made from across the Army commissioned and started their military careers as infantry officers. 

“I got to watch them go through the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course, then to Ranger School, get their tab, and then see everything that they brought to their organization because of the Ranger program,” said McKie-Miller. “I had the idea in my mind of, ‘OK, well that's what the standard looks like.’”

McKie-Miller's goals fell into place. All he needed was a clear path to seize an opportunity.

“For National Guard Soldiers, there is an additional requirement of completing the two-week long, Ranger Training Assessment Course run by the Warrior Training Center at Fort Moore prior to attending Ranger School,” he said. “I was fortunate that the Guard had a slot available for me to attend RTAC immediately following IBOLC graduation.” 

For McKie-Miller, the biggest challenge he faced with Ranger School was the mental hurdle of starting the course.

“I think my greatest challenge was just overcoming the reputation of Ranger School beforehand, of all the horror stories I heard about how I’m not going to eat, I’m not going to sleep, and I truly don’t know when it will end,” said McKie-Miller. “I imagined that it would be a 62-day field training exercise — or, at least hopefully only 62 days — across impossible terrain, and I’d just be broken down to the core throughout it. And, although in the end there is some truth to those stories, the hardest part for me was simply getting out of the car on Day Zero.” 

After that, he said, “My mindset shifted to, ’I'm here now, and I'm going to give everything I have for as long as it takes. And so is everyone alongside me.’”

McKie-Miller said Ranger School isn’t looking for perfect genetic specimens, just that you do things correctly.

“What the Ranger instructors expect are 49 perfect pushups, 59 perfect sit-ups, not a second over 40 minutes on the run, and to cap it off, six perfect chin-ups," he said. "They're not looking for someone to go out and do 100 pushups, they just want 49 to standard. When the Ranger instructor counts your 49th, 59th and 6th they tell you to stand up and move to the next station because you've met the standard. But they demand that to perfection.” 

McKie-Miller enlisted in the Kentucky Guard in 2018 as a motor transport operator while he was still a student at the University of Kentucky and was assigned to the 2123rd Transportation Company, 75th Troop Command. After a year with the 2123rd, he was encouraged to attend Officer Candidate School in Greenville, earning his commission in 2020. He is now a platoon leader with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment out of Middlesboro.

He lives in Clarksville, Tennessee, where he works as a software architect with General Electric Aerospace. 

His advice for Soldiers eyeing Ranger School: “It is a difficult course, it does challenge you, and at times it does push you to your limit," he said. “But at the end of the day, it's very much achievable.” 



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