Checkpoint 5: If she’s going to be a princess, let it be a Paper Bag Princess
One of the most admirable attributes of the Rangers is their promise to each other to “leave no one behind” regardless of the cost of doing so. It is a trait that they became well-known for after the event memorialized in the book and film, Black Hawk Down. This ethos has been adopted across the entire Army, but nowhere is it more accentuated than in sensitive missions assigned to the rangers, where risk of capture is high. It is an ethos that inspires bravery, trust, fidelity, and character.
Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
There is a remarkable story book called The Paper Bag Princess written by Robert Munsch. I probably read this story to my ranger once a week at her request. It’s a story about a girl named Elizabeth who is betrothed to a prince named Ronald. Unfortunately, a dragon comes to their castle and burns down everything and captures Ronald. All that is left for Elizabeth is a paper bag that she dons and marches straight to the dragon’s lair to rescue Ronald. She outwits the dragon and rescues Ronald, but he rebuffs her when he sees that she no longer looks like a princess wearing a paper bag. Elizabeth is not a classical princess and instead of breaking down after rejection she rebukes Ronald and calls him a bum.
It’s a fun story, but there are several lessons that can be learned from Elizabeth and the Ranger “leave no one behind” ethos. The first is bravery. With nothing more than a paper bag and her wits, Elizabeth leaves to confront a terrifying dragon. The second is loyalty. Elizabeth had a commitment to Ronald and she came to his aid despite daunting odds. The third is character. After realizing that Ronald had superficial interests, she saw that she could get along without him and sent him packing. This doesn’t take anything away from her rescue of Ronald, and in fact is a nice twist on the meaning of “happily ever after”. It also dovetails nicely into our last checkpoint.
Checkpoint 6: Cultivate independence and mission accomplishment
Army Rangers have a single focus: mission accomplishment. It is this mindset that personally motivates each one, and probably the mindset that has made the two women in the last phase of Ranger School successful up to now. They realize the power they have in a team, but they are just as focused on mission accomplishment if they are alone.
Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor
I’ve done a lot of bashing on princess culture and a social structure that crowds women into a state of dependence. It is important that everything in your power as a father be done to prevent a mindset of dependence and helplessness. If a Ranger is flush with friends and the team is kicking butt, that Ranger knows that the mission will be success. If a Ranger is alone or is captured, that Ranger knows that the mission will still be a success, if there is anything that Ranger can do or say about it. A Ranger does not need to know anything more than a mission that needs to be accomplished in order to be successful. Teamwork is a factor, but a Ranger can go it alone if necessary.
This is the spirit that we as fathers need to cultivate in our little rangers. There is nothing more important to them than mission accomplishment. Empower them with skills that they need by letting them play and take risks. Give them responsibilities and let them make decisions. Try to help them find something they love in life and let them pursue it headlong. Show them that eventually, they won’t need you or anyone else to accomplish their mission. Their mission is determining their own lives. They deserve a world with no limits. We should show them that there is nothing standing between them and mission accomplishment. Not even Ranger School.
In closing, I want to dedicate this post to the two women finishing the last phase of Ranger School this week. You two are an inspiration to me as an Army officer and a father. I look forward to pointing to you two as role models for my daughter. I also would like to dedicate this post to my little ranger, who is already doing her best to follow in the footsteps of other notable rangers.