Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has repeatedly claimed that he has experience as an “Army Ranger” — but according to customary military terminology, as characterized by a Special Operations Command spokesperson, Cotton was never an “Army Ranger.” Cotton did participate in a training program known as the U.S. Army Ranger Course, but he never served as a part of the 75th Ranger Regiment, which is an actual active duty special operations unit. The leadership training program in which Cotton participated is open to any member of the military, which Cotton originally joined after the re-election of George W. Bush, and according to that Special Operations Command spokesperson, graduates are “Ranger qualified” rather than Army Rangers.
Hey @SenTomCotton, unless you wore one of these berets you shouldn't be calling yourself a Ranger.
— Rep. Jason Crow (@RepJasonCrow) January 23, 2021
Cotton’s description of himself as an Army Ranger clearly implies some kind of active duty service in the field as part of the experience, and Cotton did serve for years — but again, he was not a “Ranger” according to the common understanding. During his first campaign for Congress, Cotton spoke of his experience as “a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan” and claimed to have “volunteered to be an Army Ranger,” but in reality, Cotton “attended the Ranger School, a two-month-long, small-unit tactical infantry course that literally anyone in the military is eligible [to] attend,” Salon explains. Members of the military who successfully finish the course “earn the right” to wear the so-called “Ranger tab,” the publication adds — but this measure is distinct from “Army Ranger” status.
Amazingly, in 2012, Cotton claimed that his “experience as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan and” his “experience in business will put [him] in very good condition,” which clearly suggests active duty service as part of his “Ranger” designation that he didn’t possess.
A similar issue emerged in a 2020 Republican U.S. Senate primary race in New Hampshire, where two contenders — Bryant “Corky” Messner and retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc — attended the Ranger school but only one, Messner, claimed that they were a “Ranger.”
Amidst the New Hampshire controversy, a Special Operations Command spokesperson said, in part, as follows:
‘The U.S. Army Ranger Course is the Army’s premier leadership school, and falls under Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Eustis, Virginia, and is open to all members of the military, regardless of whether they have served in the 75th Ranger Regiment or completed the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. A graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger Course is Ranger qualified. The 75th Ranger Regiment is a special operations unit with the mission to plan and conduct joint special military operations in support of national policies and objectives… Anyone who is serving or has served within the 75th Ranger Regiment is a U.S. Army Ranger.’
Cotton has established himself as an ardently right-wing voice in the Senate — last year, amidst nationwide protests against police brutality, he advocated to “send in the military” to confront the protesters. More recently, Cotton complained about the National Guard’s presence in D.C., insisting that personnel should leave — this time, of course, the real (rather than imagined) threat comes from the right-wing.