2013 School of the Ranger
Fort Frederick 2013 School of the Ranger video
The 2013 School of the Ranger (SOR) was conducted 25 – 27 January 2013 at historic Fort Frederick in Big Pool, Maryland. This was the second iteration of the SOR at Fort Frederick. We had 25 students registered for the SOR this year. Students attending came from MI to NY and all parts of PA and VA. Due to the threat of extreme weather as forecasted by the weather "experts", five of the students decided at the last minute not to come. Fortunately for those 20 students who made the trip, the weather was excellent, and while it did snow, it was limited to just a couple inches. The result was quite beautiful, as you can see in some of the pictures, and it added to the overall experience of those attending. Judging by the feedback from the students, instructors and Fort personnel, this SOR was an even bigger success than last year. Here is a quote from one student who traveled from the Fort Niagara region: "I want to personally thank you and your staff of instructors for one of the best experiences I've had to date in my almost 30 years of re-enacting."
The structure of the SOR changed this year. The students from last year indicated they wanted more hands-on and outdoors training. Meeting that desire required a creative redesign of the curriculum. We wanted to cover a broad array of subjects for the French and Indian war period, while balancing the subject matter between history, hands-on and outdoors training. Our final approach was to focus on three basic themes that a ranger would have dealt with in that time: "Who am I?"; "Who and what did I encounter?"; and "What Ranger skills did I need to survive?". We focused on the classroom training throughout Friday afternoon, maximizing the outdoors classes on Saturday and Sunday. Most of that training was hands-on.
Friday training started with a "Who am I?" block of instruction that covered Rogers' Rangers and frontier rangers. Tim Green provided a class on Rogers' Rangers. Troy Heck provided a class on frontier rangers. These two classes provided an excellent source for developing a ranger persona for use at reenacting events.
The "Who and what did I encounter?" block of instruction covered the Eastern Indian culture, and an enemy estimate of the French forces. T'paku Temmayu, White Bird and Raven, covered the Eastern Indian culture. Mark Helba followed with an excellent rundown of the enemy forces that participated in the French and Indian war.
The classes moved on from there to the "Ranger skills" portion, which encompassed the remainder of the school. The classes included the following subjects/Instructors: "Wild Edible Plants-What Not to Eat in the Field"/Bill Blair; "18th c. Edged Weapons"/Bruce Roberts; "Finger Weaving"/White Bird; "Making Moccasins"/Mickey Davis and Robert Tohey. The classes ended at 1900 that evening and the students and instructors moved to the barracks to settle in for an evening of socializing and the telling of stories.
William Johnson started Saturday off with a class on "How and What to Pack for a Patrol", which included information on how to eliminate noise from your gear while on patrol. Tim Green followed with a class on "Manual of Arms and Unit Maneuvers". Bob Staby, Chuck Anderson, Tim Green and Bill Blair collaborated on instruction of "Basic Movement Formations", "Hand/Arm Signals", "Actions on Ambush", and "Taking and Handling Prisoners". Tim Green followed that with instruction on "Map Making for Intelligence Gathering". All of these classes were ordered to prepare the students to conduct two separate patrol scenarios.
After conducting a safety check, the students conducted two patrols. One student volunteered to lead each patrol. The first scenario involved intelligence of a Frenchman spotted near the river, assumedly spying on the fort. The students would conduct a patrol in the vicinity of the area where the Frenchman was spotted, determine if he was alone, capture him if possible, and bring him safely back to the fort for further questioning. There were several obstacles that the patrol would have to negotiate along the way, including two gap crossings and a bridge crossing. Observer/Controllers conducted an AAR upon completion of the patrol.
The students received the second patrol scenario, which involved intelligence of a native Indian woman gathering firewood on a toboggan near a trail to the South of the fort. The patrol was to strike out immediately to that area and capture the woman if possible. The fort had previous issues with Indians operating near the fort, and the Commander wanted to be certain they were not setting up another camp nearby. The patrol effectively negotiated the same set of obstacles heading back to the East before setting course on the Southern trail. This patrol had the additional issues of ridgelines running on both sides of the trail. The patrol had to spread out enough to pass safely, yet not so far as to lose control of the left, right and rear extremes.
Both of the scenarios gave the students a realistic view of the difficulties Rangers faced while on patrol or scout missions, from maintaining control of the movement and spacing of the men, communicating using hand/arm signals, subduing and handling prisoners, to reacting to an ambush. All in all, the students handled the missions well and enjoyed themselves immensely.
Afterwards, everyone headed back to the classroom for a grand meal, followed by a class on "18th c. First Aid", given by Nick Kalenich. He was followed by the honored guest speaker for the event, Artist Bryant White. Bryant talked about the process of creating a great portrait of 18th c. life, from conception to finished product. After a considerable discussion period, everyone retired to the barracks for more stories and socializing. After a long, hard day of training in the snowy fields of Fort Frederick, everyone hit the sack relatively early.
Scheduled Sunday training included an AAR for the school, 18th c. church services led the Right Reverend Bill Blair, a class by Tom Flynn on "Making 18th c. Cartridges", and a live fire/competitive shoot at the range. Many students had long drives ahead of them and decided to leave early.
The 2013 School of the Ranger ended with a cleaning of the barracks and inspection by the park ranger. Students and instructors said their goodbyes and headed for home. Many new friends were made during the school, with many promises to keep in touch and return again next January. Most students provided exceptionally good feedback on the School and said they would advocate the 2014 SOR, which is already scheduled for 24-26 January 2014. As with the past events, Jeni Scarisbrick, President of the Friends of Fort Frederick, and Bob Study and the rest of the Park staff were invaluable in the success of the School. Their warm welcome and helpful attitudes ensured that any issues were quickly resolved to the satisfaction of all, and that all meals were well provided.
As with the 2013 SOR, we will make additional changes to the curriculum based on the feedback from the students and observations of the instructors. We will continue to emphasize outdoor, hands-on training of Ranger skills. But for 2014, we will conduct the range on Friday, minimizing training on Sunday so that everyone can head for home by 1200. We have already developed our tentative schedule of classes and will publish it on the Battalion and Friends of Fort Frederick websites in the near future. If you missed 2013 SOR, you missed something special! But there is always next year. We hope to see more of our Battalion members there, lending their expertise, while enjoying the classes and camaraderie.
Watch the Fort Frederick 2013 School of Ranger video produced by Ranger Matt Smith.