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Interview: Col. Marcus S. Evans

75th Ranger Regiment Commander

 

 

Col. Marcus S. Evans received his commission in the infantry through ROTC in 1994. His first assignment was with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment at Fort Lewis, Washington, where he served as a rifle and reconnaissance platoon leader. Following his assignment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Evans served in the 3rd Ranger Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia, as a platoon leader and staff officer.

Upon completion of the Infantry Officer Advance Course, Evans served in the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he commanded a rifle company. He then served with the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as the battalion assistant operations officer from April 2002 to June 2004.

Evans attended the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from July 2004 to June 2005, and after CGSC, he served at the 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, as a battalion liaison officer, battalion operations officer, and battalion executive officer. In June 2008, Evans transferred to the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he served as the regimental operations officer. Evans commanded 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg from February 2010 to May 2011, and he subsequently commanded 3rd Ranger Battalion at Fort Benning from July 2011 to June 2013.

Upon completion of the Naval War College in June 2014, Evans was assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg from July 2014 to February 2015. He assumed command of the 75th Ranger Regiment June 25, 2015.

Evans holds a bachelor’s of science degree from Tennessee Technological University. He also holds a master’s degree in business management from Webster University and a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College. He has multiple operational deployments, including assignments in support of operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

His awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Achievement Medal, and Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters. He has also earned the Kosovo Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Ranger Tab.

 

The Year in Special Operations: It’s the 75th anniversary of the 75th Ranger Regiment. What would surprise a World War II Ranger if he were looking at the regiment today?

Col. Marcus S. Evans: A World War II Ranger would be surprised by the greatly expanded capabilities of the modern Ranger Regiment. Today, we have Rangers flying UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles], Rangers conducting electronic warfare, and Rangers conducting human intelligence operations, all of which have evolved over the last 15 years or so. What has not changed is the quality of our people and our high standards.

How different is the regiment today, in organization, composition, and outlook than what it was in World War II?

The battalions of World War II were comprised of wartime volunteers for Ranger duty and also outfitted from regular Army replacements. The six Ranger battalions and 5307th Composite Unit (Merrill’s Marauders) were never centralized under a single commander. Today’s Ranger Regiment is comprised of three Ranger Infantry Battalions, a Special Troops Battalion, and a Military Intelligence Battalion (Provisional). Each Rifle battalion has a company of support personnel as well as a company of enablers, including sections of military working dogs and technical surveillance. The 75th Ranger Regiment welcomed its first female soldier in 2017.

How well is the force holding up under the strain of deployments through 16 years of continuous combat operations?

The ability to maintain an aggressive operational tempo is nested with our Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1 (RASP 1) for junior enlisted soldiers and RASP 2 for non-commissioned, warrant, and commissioned officers. Our Rangers remain four-time volunteers (U.S. Army, Basic Airborne Course, Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, and the U.S. Army Ranger Course.)We look for opportunities to professionally develop our Rangers in assignments that provide the right mix of experience and education with family life and balance. The regiment’s Health of the Force and Family priority optimizes the human, psychological, spiritual, and social performance of our Rangers, civilians, contractors, and their families through continuous education of available programs and services, and leader involvement in the professional and personal lives of our teammates. We maintain our Rangers with a holistic human performance program beginning in RASP 1 and 2 with the education of the specialists and resources available to help our Rangers train, grow, and recover.

How tough are the Operations Tempos (OPTEMPOs) for the battalions now, and how do they shape up historically within the past 16 years?

The OPTEMPO has been consistently high for the past 16 years. Battalions must train for known combat rotations each year, in addition to preparing for unknown contingencies, while remaining proficient on multiple vehicular and aerial insertion platforms. By cycling units in and out of combat and training periods, we have found a way to manage the high operational tempo of the regiment.

How has the composition and organization of the regiment changed over the past 15 years? How have the battalions expanded and changed to meet new challenges?

The Regimental Special Troops Battalion (RSTB) was provisionally activated July 17, 2006, and officially activated Oct. 16, 2007, as a response to the demands of the war on terror and the changing nature of Ranger operations. The activation of RSTB provides the regiment and the U.S. 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 regiment and other special operations task forces in order to enable the execution of joint special operations anywhere in the world. Additionally, the RSTB provides qualified, trained, and ready Rangers in order to sustain the Ranger force. A Military Intelligence Battalion was provisionally activated May 22, 2017. The Regimental Military Intelligence Battalion (Provisional) provides multi-discipline, full-spectrum, worldwide, expeditionary and reach-back intelligence capabilities for the 75th Ranger Regiment enterprise. Each rifle battalion has a company of support personnel as well as a company of enablers, including sections of military working dogs and technical surveillance. To maintain continuity from year to year, we have appointed a civilian deputy commander for the regiment. We have also expanded Department of the Army civilian and contractor jobs within the regiment, mostly in technical fields.

Have you been able to carry out more training, and a more complete range of training and exercises, over the past couple of years?

Worldwide threats have continued to expand and evolve over the past couple of years, which has not afforded us additional time to train, beyond what we have historically been allocated.

Before 9/11, the Ranger role was seen by most as being limited to conducting raids and seizing airfields. How has the Ranger mission set expanded, and in that, do you see something of a harking back to World War II, with the regiment working alongside its infantry brothers and performing a wider range of missions?

Since 9/11, the 75th Ranger Regiment has shown its ability to independently conduct special operations missions, while also achieving greater interoperability with the joint special operations community and conventional forces. For the past several years, the regiment has maintained pressure on insurgent networks in Afghanistan through partnered operations. The regiment has an interoperability capacity with the conventional forces that allows us to conduct anything in support of an operation from special operations missions to infantry-related tasks. This capacity has grown over the last four years as we continue to integrate into major training events with conventional forces at the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center. We have also developed the capability of training and partnering with host-nation special operations forces. In the charter that former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno provided to the regiment, the regiment is tasked with continuing to “link our Army’s brigade combat teams and special operations forces by migrating its best leaders, training, equipment, and warrior ethos to the operational force in unified land operations while actively collaborating with the Army’s Centers of Excellence to further this end.”

What programs have been put in place over the past few years to support the families?

Last summer, we held the inaugural 75th Ranger Regiment Force and Family Symposium. This two-day event featured numerous guest trainers who spoke to an audience of senior Rangers and their spouses gathered from across the regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia. Rangers and spouses who attended have endured upwards of 15 years of persistent conflict with an average of 42 months of deployed time in combat and away from home. Guest trainers conducted sessions addressing issues such as personal and marital resilience, psychological functions that impact relationships, and practical ways to strengthen the family in a digital age. The success of this inaugural event has generated plants for future iterations.

Ranger chaplains continue to host world-class events for Ranger families, single Rangers, and spouses of deployed Rangers. In FY 2016, approximately 2,100 Rangers and families attended a relationship and life event led by a Ranger chaplain. Additionally, Ranger chaplains continue to provide confidential marriage, relationship, grief, and spiritual counseling for Rangers and families.

Each regimental element has access to a Special Operations Behavioral Health Clinic for counseling and referral to other resources. In addition, every Ranger has access to a military family life consultant as an additional counseling resource.

What has endured over the past 75 years? What remains the same, no matter the type of conflict, new technologies, or changing politics?

What remains the same is adherence to the Ranger standards required to train, fight, and win while maintaining good order and discipline. Standards evolve to meet the needs of our wartime mission, but strict adherence to those standards is the hallmark of the Ranger Regiment. We continue to attract and produce talented leaders for the U.S. Army, in addition to testing and developing new equipment and tactics for the conventional force.

What new roles and missions has the regiment had to adapt to since 9/11?

The biggest adaptation has been maintaining a standing, deployed O-6 headquarters with mission command of combat operations overseas. Additionally, maintaining the flexibility to adapt to the current operating environment has been the single greatest challenge the unit has faced.

What are your greatest needs with respect to resources, whether time, financial, or equipment?

The Army must maintain a position of advantage relative to any enemy that we face. Seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative remains the fundamental challenge. Our enemies have easy access to cost-effective equipment and technology that few militaries or militias could afford 15 years ago. The enemy’s equipment is not the problem. We must innovate to maintain a position of advantage through speed of synchronized action. The ability to make decisions quickly, disseminate information, move faster, and mass effects more quickly than the enemy will continue to win battles in the future.

Synchronized action requires adherence to the principles of mission command. We focus our innovation efforts on the resources, technology, and equipment that enable mission command and synchronized action. Acquiring these resources at the right time, and for the right fight, will continue to challenge every formation in the Army. We have made advancements in every warfighting function and have evaluated (and are employing) the newest technologies available. We will continue to share the lessons the Ranger Regiment has learned during continuous combat operations over the last 15 years with the Total Army.

This interview was originally published in the 2017 edition of The Year in Special Operations.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...