2012 School of the Ranger
The Jaeger’s Battalion of Rogers Rangers, with assistance from the Rangers of the Ohio Company, hosted their first annual John Jaeger Memorial School of the Ranger on 27-29 January 2012 at Fort Frederick, MD. By any measure, the school was a big success with 29 students and a dozen instructors turning out for the event.
Background. You might ask, what was the genesis of this program? A couple of reenactors were sitting around talking over dinner about the hobby and the significant level of expertise resident in the French and Indian War reenacting community. That expertise comes from Rangers who possess a myriad of backgrounds, from published authors of historical books to retired military personnel. We all agreed that it would be a great idea to put together a school or training weekend where some of the experts could share their knowledge with the community. Additionally, the Jaeger’s Battalion has a Senior Ranger Program that challenges their Rangers to grow in their expertise. If a Ranger can demonstrate expertise in certain activities, as well as complete a series of written requirements, they can apply to join the Honorable Senior Ranger Company. Completing the requirements takes a significant amount of effort and time. The thought was that we could use the school of the ranger to help candidates along in their quest for Senior Ranger honors. A group of dedicated Rangers from both Jaeger’s Battalion and the Rangers of the Ohio Company (ROC) put the idea into action.
Mark Ulrich, a SGT in the Pennsylvania Company of Jaeger’s Battalion of Rogers Rangers and a member of the ROC, decided to develop and administer the school. He enlisted the assistance of at least a dozen of his fellow Ranger reenactors to serve as expert instructors. These Rangers hailed from different companies within Jaeger’s Battalion and the Rangers of the Ohio Company. He also secured an excellent guest speaker to provide a dissertation on a historic subject for the students during the Saturday evening dinner meal. The intent, depending upon the response from the reenacting community, is to conduct the school annually during the last full weekend of January.
Arrival. Scheduled classes began at 1 pm on Friday, 27 January 2012 and ran through 12 pm on Sunday, 29 January 2012. Students began arriving early on Friday morning. They arrived to a relatively warm barracks, thanks in part to a few early arrivals who stoked the fires in some of the 6 fireplaces available for heat. The barracks has 30 bunks available for use during the school. Students grabbed bunks on a first come, first served basis. A few students brought cots to sleep on. The fort opened some additional space upstairs to handle overflow. Students also had the option to pitch a tent outside the barracks.
Barracks life. In most instances, students smiled broadly when they laid eyes on the barracks interior, anticipating the incredible experience and camaraderie in store for them over the weekend. Evenings in the barracks were nothing short of fantastic. Folks wandered through the barracks throughout the evening, meeting and greeting old and new friends alike. It is difficult to describe accurately the ambiance of an evening in the Fort Frederick barracks, with the fires blazing and folks sitting around the tables and fireplaces carrying on about their hobby, or just renewing old acquaintances. In short, it was plain awesome! It provided a great opportunity to get to know everyone attending the school.
The classroom. The school kicked off promptly at 1 pm with Mark Ulrich providing opening remarks and introducing the Fort Frederick Staff and Friends of Fort Frederick President, Jeni Scarisbrick. After the introductions, background and administrative information, Captain Bill Blair, Jaeger’s Battalion Adjutant, read a welcome letter penned by the Battalion Commander, Major Tim Todish.
Classes promptly followed the opening remarks. The following represents a list of the classes provided and the experts who presented:
Ranger Packs and Essential Gear for the Trail - Bill Johnson
18th Century Knives and Hawks - Bruce Roberts
Natives Customs/Interaction with Colonists - T'Poku Temmeu
Bullet Molding and Cartridge Making - Tom Flynn
First Aid and Water Safety During Patrol - Nick Kalenich
Ranger Patrol Skills-Roger’s Rules for Ranging - Bob Staby
Manual of Arms Training – Tim Green
Making Moccasins - Mickey Davis
Making Cordage/Trade with Natives - Elizabeth Huxford
Pioneering - Brad Staby
Edible Wild Plants – Bill Blair
Scouts and Reconnaissance - Chuck Anderson
Reconnaissance Map Making - Timothy Green
Dinner w/Guest Speaker: “Andreas Albrecht-Prominent Early Colonial Moravian Gun Maker in Central PA” - Robert Albrecht
Live Fire at the Weapons Range – Tom Flynn and Bill Blair
Feedback from the students and instructors indicated that the classroom facility was excellent, as were the expert instructors and guest speaker. There was ample room for instruction and the facilities provided everything we needed throughout the day. As a convenience, we served all meals in the classroom.
We provided students with a survey in which they could provide meaningful and critical feedback on all aspects of the school, from facilities to meals to barracks life and quality of the classes and instructors. While all of the feedback was positive, students offered a few ideas on how we could improve the school next year. The most common comment focused on a need for more hands on training. The classes provided this year were mostly delivered using a seminar methodology. Instructors provided many example items to augment their oration, but only one class provided true hands on training. Elizabeth Huxford provided that class, training students in the skill of making cordage. Comments provided in the survey are being strongly considered in the planning for the 2013 School of the Ranger.
The live fire range. One of the highlights of any event at Fort Frederick is the opportunity to target shoot on the live fire range. It is popular during the annual Market Fair and was equally popular for the School of the Ranger. One additional highlight during the live fire at the school was the opportunity to test the different types of cartridges that students learned about during Tom Flynn’s class on Bullet Molding and Cartridge Making. Students discovered just how much of a difference there was between a ball cartridge and a buck and ball cartridge. They also discovered that using a cartridge is much quicker than shooting patch and ball. Everyone had adequate time to sate their hunger of throwing lead at French silhouette targets and the live fire range will certainly be on the schedule each year.
The Park staff and Friends of Fort Frederick. The park staff and Friends provided a great deal of assistance in making the school a success. They welcomed the event with open arms and worked hard to ensure we were very satisfied with Fort Frederick. Jeni Scarisbrick of the Friends of Fort Frederick coordinated for and provided all of the meals and administrative support throughout the event. Jeni was integral to the success of the school and was a joy to work with. We owe her a great deal of gratitude. Bob Study is the Historian for Fort Frederick. Bob provided excellent coordination for the use of the fort and advice on what we could reasonably accomplish at the Fort. Angie Hummer is the Park Manager at the fort. She too went out of her way to ensure that the fort met our needs. Ranger Ralph Young worked hard throughout the weekend to provide firewood for the barracks, and coordinated for support required in a timely manner. Ranger Steve Robertson provided the MD State supervision for the live fire range. Additionally, Angie and her Rangers sat in on most of the classes so they could learn a bit more about 18th c. Rangers. The very least that could be said about the welcome support provided by the Park Rangers is it was simply excellent. Their assistance was integral to the success of the school and we look forward to even better results next year. Speaking of next year...
Way Ahead. Next year, students can look forward to more hands on and immersion training. For example, we intend to offer students the opportunity to volunteer to participate in an overnight patrol. The participants will be totally immersed in the patrol. Everything about the patrol will be 18th c. only, no modern gear whatsoever. Students will receive instruction on what to pack out for an overnight patrol, how to tactically soundproof themselves and their gear, and receive an authentic 18th c. ration for consumption that evening. Instructors will check all gear to ensure instruction was successful. Additionally, participants will learn about: proper patrol techniques and the role of specific members (point, flank, rear guard, etc.), actions on ambush, making a hasty camp where they will actually spend the night, noise and light discipline, hand and arm signals, etc., etc.
Other potential hands on classes will include land navigation, map making, throwing a hawk or knife, firing a musket or rifle, pioneering, making moccasins, and several others. One additional change we will attempt is to make class times longer and splitting the classes up into two groups so that we can increase the time for hands on training, while still spending part of the day in the classroom. We will also adjust our feeding plan based on survey results and verbal suggestions. The 2013 School of the Ranger will evolve to meet the needs of the students and provide the best possible experience we can achieve.
Summary. We are already preparing for the 2013 School of the Ranger. The dates for next year are 25-27 January 2013. We plan to have a syllabus ready for approval during the Fort Frederick Market Fair in April 2012. We are taking all of the survey results and verbal feedback very seriously and promise to make the 2013 School of the Ranger even more enjoyable than 2012. So pass the word to all of your reenacting friends that 25-27 January 2013 is a date worthy of their consideration. It is a time to come to Fort Frederick, learn something new, and meet some new friends and renew old relationships while soaking up the incredible ambiance of the fort, barracks, and the beautiful surrounding wilderness. They will not regret it and they just might find a new winter event that they can attend each year. Plan on it!