Military Organization > United States > U.S. Army Ranger Company (1986-97)

U.S. Army Ranger Company (1986-97)

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following was the organization of the Ranger Company of the U.S. Army from roughly October 1986 to June 1997. This would have included the Invasion of Panama (1989-90), Operation Desert Storm (1991), and Battle of Mogadishu (1993).

The Rangers were formed after the Vietnam War as an elite light infantry formation, structurally similar to other light infantry units, with a quick reaction force and commando type mission. They largely absorbed the Airborne Rangers of the Vietnam-era, who were actually LRRP scouts or Recondos with a separate lineage.

 

The next level up was the Ranger Battalion, which consisted of a Battalion HHC and 3 Ranger Companies (this). Ranger Battalions were/are subordinate to the 75th Ranger Regiment, which was primarily administrative, doctrine, and training focused.

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Company Headquarters

    • 3 Rifle Platoons

    • 1 Weapons Platoon

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

1986 Ranger company-01.png
 

      Organization      ​​

  • Type: Light Infantry Company

  • Origin: U.S. Army (United States)

  • Time Frame: 1986-1997

  • Personnel: 6 Officers and 146 Enlisted

Company Headquarters (2 Officers, 9 Enlisted)*

  • 1× Commanding Officer, Captain (OF-2), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle and 1 M9 Pistol

  • 1× Executive Officer, First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× First Sergeant, First Sergeant, armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Communications Chief, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Supply Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× NBC NCO, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Armorer, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Radiotelephone Operator, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Radiotelephone Operator, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

* Company authorized 2 PRC-77 manpack radios (for RTOs,) 1 PSC-30 and 2 PRC-104As.

→ Sniper Team

  • 1× Senior Sniper, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M24 or M21 Sniper Rifle

  • 1× Sniper, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle and 1 M203 Grenade Launcher

→ Fire Support Team (attached from Battalion HHC)*

  • 1× Team Chief, First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Fire Support Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Fire Support Specialist, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle
     

  • 3× Forward Observers**, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 3× Radiotelephone Operator**, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

* FIST authorized 5 PRC-77s, 1 PRC-41, 1 PRC-104A, and 3 PAQ-1 Laser Targetting Devices.

**Distributed to Rifle Platoons in two-man FO/RTO teams.

→ Company Aidmen (attached from Battalion HHC)

  • 4× Company Aidmen*, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 M9 Pistol

One attached to each platoon.

→ Spare Weapons

  • 1× M24 or M21 Sniper Rifle

  • 3× M67 90mm Recoilless Rifles

  • 3× M202 FLASH Incendiary Rocket Launchers

  • 1× M203 Grenade Launcher*

For mounting on M16A2 rifle

3× Rifle Platoons (1 Officer, 39 Enlisted) 

​→ 1× Platoon Headquarters*

  • 1× Platoon Leader, First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant First Class (OR-7), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Radiotelephone Operator, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

* Two M24 or M21 Sniper Rifles kept as spares to issue to two platoon personnel trained as snipers. Platoon HQ was authorized 1 PRC-77 manpack radio (for the RTO), 1 RC-104A, and 2 PRC-68 squad radios (for Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant).

​→ 3× Rifle Squads*

  • 1× Squad Leader, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

Alpha Team

  • 1× Team Leader, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Automatic Rifleman, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 M249 Light Machine Gun**

  • 1× Grenadier, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle and 1 M203 Grenade Launcher

  • 1× Rifleman, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

Bravo Team

  • 1× Team Leader, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Automatic Rifleman, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 M249 Light Machine Gun**

  • 1× Grenadier, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle and 1 M203 Grenade Launcher

  • 1× Rifleman, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

* Each Rifle Squad was authorized a PRC-68 Squad Radio (for Squad Leaders).

** The Rangers were among the only Army infantry units to receive the M249 SAW in time for operations in the late 1980s and very early 1990s.

​→ 1× Machine Gun Squad*

  • 1× Squad Leader, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

3× Medium Machine Gun Teams

  • 1× Machine Gunner, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 M60 Machine Gun and M9 Pistol

  • 1× Assistant Machine Gunner, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Ammo Bearer, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

* Machine Gun Squad was authorized a PRC-68 Squad Radio (for Squad Leader).

1× Weapons Platoon (1 Officer, 20 Enlisted) 

​→ 1× Platoon Headquarters*

  • 1× Platoon Leader, First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant First Class (OR-7), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Radiotelephone Operator, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

* Platoon HQ was authorized 1 PRC-77 manpack radio (for the RTO) and 2 PRC-68 squad radios (for Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant).

​→ 1× Anti-Tank Section

  • 1× Section Leader*, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

3× AT Teams

  • 1× AT Gunner, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 M47 Dragon ATGM or M67 Recoilless Rifle** and 1 M9 Pistol

  • 1× Assistant Gunner, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

  • 1× Ammo Bearer, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

* Section Leader carries an M68 Squad Radio.

** M47 ATGM would be the primary AT weapon system used in a high armor threat environment. In low armor threat environments, the M67 90mm Recoilless Rifle would be used.

​→ 1× Mortar Section*

  • 1× Section Leader, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle and 1 M203 Grenade Launcher

  • 1× Fire Direction Computer, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

2× Mortar Teams

  • 1× Mortar Gunner, Specialist (OR-4), armed with 1 60mm Mortar and 1 M9 Pistol

  • 1× Assistant Gunner, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M9 Pistol

  • 1× Ammo Bearer, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A2 Rifle

* Section HQ authorized 1 PRC-68 squad radio and 1 PRC-77. 

 

      Discussion      ​​

The Rangers had been formed and deactivated multiple times, first founded as a commando raiding force during World War II. The modern Rangers supplanted the Airborne Infantry Rangers of the Vietnam-era, who were actually long range recce patrolmen or Recondos rebranded as Rangers with no real connection to the original Ranger lineage. In fact the new Rangers absorbed many of the LRRP Rangers of the Vietnam War to staff its new 1st Battalion as the Army rushed to get it out the door. The modern Rangers were created in 1974-75 following the Vietnam War as a means of providing the Army with a rapidly deployable, high-skill light infantry capability that would be quicker than the 82nd Airborne Division and compete to a degree with the Marine Corps. The Special Forces (Green Berets) would retain their foreign internal defense and training mission, differentiating them from the Rangers who were essentially elite light infantry, while the new Delta Force swiped up the hostage rescue role that the Rangers had been considered for.

The Ranger Battalion was the principle Ranger unit, meant to act independently from their parent regiment — the 75th Regiment — with a greater degree of autonomy under the direction of unit command the Rangers were attached to. Likewise, the Ranger Companies were meant to be more independent, but the overall organization was similar to that of the regular infantry (with minor differences) and the Rangers would be inherently dependent on a unit they were attached to for support. Outsiders would be needed if the Rangers wanted to motorize or get any fire support heavier than a 60mm mortar. The Ranger Company was the close combat element of the Ranger Battalion, an elite formation of light infantry designed for quick reaction and commando type missions. It consisted of a Company Headquarters, 3 Rifle Platoons and 1 Weapons Platoon.

 

The Company Headquarters was the command and support echelon of the company. It came under the overall command of a Captain with a Lieutenant as the Executive Officer. The First Sergeant (senior enlisted), Communications Chief (predecessor to the Forward Signal Support NCO), Supply NCO, NBC NCO, and 2 RTOs were all typical for a light infantry Company Headquarters. The Company Commander was the tactical commander, while the Executive Officer and First Sergeant handled more of the administrative functions of the company. The NBC NCO was in charge of advising the company leadership and trains the company on operations in nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare environments. For example, if the company were advancing acrossed a nuked Fulda Gap or if the area been hit with chemical weapons. Meanwhile, the Supply NCO and Armorer handled the supply situation. Where the Ranger Company HQ did differ from the standard light infantry equivalent was the inclusion of a 2-man sniper team (likely a Senior Sniper with the M21 or M24 sniper weapon system) and a Sniper/Observer with a rifle and M203 grenade launcher. Additionally the Ranger Company HQ had 3 M202 FLASH incendiary rocket launchers and 3 M67 Recoilless Rifles as spare weapons. The spare sniper rifle in the Company HQ may have been whichever sniper weapon system the Senior Sniper was not currently using (so 1 M24 bolt-action sniper rifle and 1 M21 semi-automatic designated marksman rifle per Company HQ).

A Fire Support Team (FIST) would typically be attached from the Battalion Fire Support Element. This would include a company-level FIST Team Chief (equivalent to a Fire Support Officer of today), Fire Support Sergeant and Fire Support Specialist as well as 2-man Forward Observer Teams for each of the 3 Rifle Platoons including a Forward Observer and RTO. Four Company Aidmen (combat medics) would also be attached to the company from the Battalion Aidman Section (there had originally been 4 medics and a FIST organic to the company before 1986 Army of Excellence streamlining). It is likely that each platoon would get a medic attached.

The 3 Rifle Platoons were the company's maneuver elements. They consisted of a Platoon Headquarters, 3 Rifle Squads, and a Machine Gun Squad. The Platoon HQ included a Platoon Leader (Lieutenant), Platoon Sergeant, and RTO (radio operator) — fairly normal. Attached medics and forward observer teams would also be considered within the Platoon HQ in combat. The main difference here between the Rangers and standard infantry was that the Ranger Platoon HQs had 2 sniper rifles in reserve to issue to trained members of the platoon.

 

Rifle Squads were organized broadly the same as in the regular infantry, with a Staff Sergeant Squad Leader and 2 Teams of 1 Team Leader (Sgt.), 1 Automatic RIfleman (Spc.), 1 Grenadier (Spc.), and 1 Rifleman (Pfc.). The most noteworthy difference is that although the M249 SAW had been introduced in the mid 1980s as a squad automatic weapon to replace the M16A1, the Rangers were among the few units to actually field the weapon in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Rangers were also authorized the newer PRC-68 squad radio versus the older PRT-4/PRR-9 radios. Typically each Squad Leader, Section Leader, Platoon Leader, and Platoon Sergeant would get a squad radio in addition to the RTOs' PRC-77 manpack radio and PRC-104As.

 

Meanwhile, the Weapons Squads of Ranger Platoons had 3 M60 Machine Gun Teams (versus the 2 machine gun teams of standard infantry Weapons Squads). This squad could be employed as a single unit to provide automatic fire support, or split into teams that could each support one of the Rifle Squads. The Ranger Weapons Squad also differed from the standard in that they lacked the 2 M47 Dragon ATGM anti-armor teams (these were instead placed in a Weapons Platoon).

The Weapons Platoon consisted of a Platoon HQ, Mortar Section and and Antitank Section. The Platoon HQ was identical to that of the Rifle Platoon. The Mortar Section provided the company with an organic indirect fire capability, equipped with 2 60mm mortar teams (similar to the other light infantry subtypes, like airborne and air assault companies, differing from the 3 81mm mortar teams of the standard infantry rifle company). However, because only 3 men were furnished per mortar team (gunner, assistant gunner, and ammo bearer), in practice 1 of the teams would often be cannibalized so enough ammo could be carried to feed the mortar (or the mortars just wouldn't be taken out at all). In theory the Rifle Platoons were meant to carry mortar rounds, but there was the issue of getting said mortar rounds from the Rifle Platoons to the mortar. With the mortar and baseplate, it would be difficult for the Mortar Teams to carry more than a handful of rounds by themselves.

The inclusion of a dedicated Antitank Section was unique to the Rangers, primarily because the other types of infantry companies put ATGMs in Rifle Platoon Weapons Squads. The Antitank Section had 3 AT Teams which could each man either an M47 Dragon anti-tank guided missile system or an M67 90mm recoilless rifle. The former would be used in a high armor-threat environment while the latter would be used when there was a low armor threat, as the recoilless rifle was arguably more versatile in the targets it could engage. The use of the M67 was unique to the Rangers, it being an older Vietnam-era weapon system that was generally replaced by the M47. It wouldn't be replaced in Ranger service until the Ranger Anti-Armor/Anti-Personnel Weapon System (RAAWS) — the Ranger version of the Carl Gustav 84mm recoilless rifle — was adopted in the mid-1990s. Likewise, the M47 would continue to be used until the mid- to late-1990s when the Javelin was introduced.

Virtually all personnel except for machine gunners, automatic riflemen, mortar gunners, assistant mortar gunners, medics and snipers (not including snipers acting as observers) were armed with the M16A2 rifle. The company commander, machine gunners, mortar gunners, assistant mortar gunners, and medics were all armed with M9 semi-automatic pistols (as either primary or secondary weapons). The company had no integral motorization.

 

      Sources      ​​

  • Sayen, John. (2001) “Battalion: An Organizational Study of the United States Infantry.” Working paper, Marine Corps Combat Development Command

  • Table of Organization 7-87L “Rifle Company, Ranger Battalion” (1 October 1986)

  • FM 7-85 "Ranger Unit Operations" (9 June 1987)

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

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