- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - A Minot Air Force Base airman is among an elite group.

Senior Airman Franklin Sloat is the only airman at the Minot base who is Ranger certified. Sloat recently completed U.S. Army Ranger School.

“In the history of the Air Force, there’s less than 300 Rangers certified for the Air Force since 1955 when the school was started,” Sloat told the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1Lky1iz ).

Originally from Corona, California, Sloat is a response force leader with the 791st Security Forces Squadron at Minot AFB. He has been at the Minot base for about four years.

He credits his decision to become a Ranger to a former master sergeant at the Minot base. “I always liked putting myself to a challenge and I had a prior master sergeant I worked for who was Ranger certified. He is the one who really pushed me toward going to try out for Ranger School. He saw the potential that I had,” Sloat said.

“Even in the Army, there’s few Ranger tabs,” he said.

Sloat’s road to becoming Ranger certified began by attending the Air Force Ranger Assessment Course at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

“That’s where they select individuals to go to Army Ranger School,” he said. “I like to call it like a micro-Ranger School.” Sloat attended the course in October 2014. The two-week course puts airmen who want to become Rangers to the test physically and mentally.

Sloat was one of three people out of a group going through the course selected to attend U.S. Army Ranger School.

A few months later in July 2015, Sloat started Ranger School at Fort Benning in Georgia, followed by more training at Camp Frank Merrill in northern Georgia and then to what is called “Swamp Days” at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

“Coming from up here and going down there and dealing with the humidity was definitely a big challenge,” Sloat said.

The rigorous Ranger School course involves a physical assessment test including a 12-mile ruck march, instructions in patrolling and outside-the-wire missions, mountaineering skills and combat water survival.

“The swamp part was difficult moving through chest-deep water and mud in the swamps of South Florida. But at that same time you are carrying a heavy weapon, a machine gun, along with your ruck which consists of about up to a hundred pounds of gear. So (you can) just add that onto that physical exertion, physical exhaustion per se, of Ranger School,” he said.

“Our course initially started with 280 individuals and only 89 graduated,” Sloat said.

The days were very long for the Ranger School group, he said. “Ranger School is definitely known for lack of sleep and lack of food. We would be moving through the day and conducting our operations up until about 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and then we’d have to be up again in about 45 minutes to an hour to do it all over again. On the average, we got about an hour of sleep.”

“You burn a lot of calories during the day on the nonstop moving,” he said. “When you do get time to eat, it’s right before you go to bed. Right before bed you eat and right away when you get up. You eat so what is initially supposed to be two meals ends up being one (because of) how close they are.”

On the average, Sloat said many in the class were in their early 20s and just starting their Army careers.

Sloat did have times when he questioned himself. “There were moments when you kind of questioned am I going to be able to complete this next task or this task I have farther on down the road. But at that point, that’s where you had to have that mental toughness to complete whatever task you have in front of you. Like they say, it’s not for the weak or faint-hearted, which is one of the big mottos that they have. You just got to know ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to make it to the end and I’m going to complete the Ranger objective.’”

While Sloat was going through Ranger School, back in North Dakota his wife, Elizabeth was going through a significant experience. “My daughter was actually born while I was at Ranger School,” Sloat said. The Sloats’ daughter, Kailani, was born Sept. 19 at Trinity Hospital in Minot.

“I was able to get a phone call and be able to talk to her,” he said. When he received photos from his mother of his new daughter while he was at Ranger School, he said that just gave him extra motivation to succeed.

On Oct. 16, Sloat was among those 89 people who graduated from Ranger School at Fort Benning. His wife and daughter were there. “It was the very first time I got to see my daughter in person and actually got to hold her,” he said.

With his new credentials as a Ranger, Sloat said he can go to units where he will be able to use that training. In January, he and his wife and daughter will be going to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he will be part of an airborne unit.

“I’ve always felt that the military was my calling just because of my grandfather,” Sloat said. His grandfather, the late Harold Sloat, who lived in the New England states, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

Sloat said earning the Ranger tab is difficult but it’s not the hardest part of it. “The hardest thing about being a Ranger is bearing the tab and being the leader that the Ranger tab portrays,” Sloat said.

“You know when you see a Ranger he’s going to be able to complete the mission, no matter what and no matter how tired or how hungry he gets. He’s going to be able to lead others to the Ranger objective or just the objective of the military itself or whatever it might be,” Sloat said.

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Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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