- Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas shrugged off a news report suggesting he previously embellished his military achievements.
- Cotton claimed the scrutiny was a politically-motivated attack.
- “But if some people disagree, that’s fine,” Cotton said in a Fox News interview. “I respect their views, but what’s most important, I respect the service of all Rangers, and indeed, all soldiers who volunteer to serve our country.”
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Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas shrugged off a news report suggesting he previously embellished his military achievements, and instead, said the recent scrutiny was a politically-motivated attack.
“I graduated from the Ranger School, I wore the Ranger tab in combat with the 101st Airborne in Iraq,” Cotton said during a Fox News interview on Monday. “This is not about my military record. This is about my politics.”
Cotton blamed a “liberal media” for accusing him of appropriating the title of a US Army Ranger because “a conservative veteran was using the term that way.”
“But if some people disagree, that’s fine,” Cotton said. “I respect their views, but what’s most important, I respect the service of all Rangers, and indeed, all soldiers who volunteer to serve our country.”
Cotton’s rebuttal follows a Salon report published Saturday, in which the news outlet claimed he had passed himself as an Army Ranger in statements and campaign advertisements. According to the report, Cotton and his campaign described him as having “volunteered to be an Army Ranger” and was an “Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The term “Ranger” is reserved for soldiers who served with the US Special Operations Command’s 75th Ranger Regiment based out of Fort Benning, Georgia. The 75th Ranger Regiment requires its soldiers to complete a eight-week selection process.
Cotton, however, did not serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment. He attended the US Army’s Ranger School, a separate eight-week leadership course that teaches service members light-infantry tactics. The school is open to volunteers from all of the US military’s branches, including the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.
Being a “Ranger” and attending Ranger School is often confused or used interchangeably. While the distinction is rarely brought up outside of military circles, it has been fiercely debated among veterans and encapsulates the nuances of military titles.
Speaking to a Ranger School graduation ceremony in 2015, US Army Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of the service’s infantry school, told service members, “You carry the title of Ranger. From here on out, your subordinates, your peers, your leaders, will always expect you to be able to handle the toughest tasks.”
Instructors at Ranger School often address their students as “Ranger” and also require service members to repetitively chant “Ranger” while performing exercises.
Serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment or completing the Army’s Ranger School are both significant accomplishments. The vast majority of service members have neither served in a special operations unit nor attended Ranger School, both of which are physically and mentally grueling tasks. Neither are required to be eligible for the other – the only exception being that 75th Ranger Regiment leaders, such as commissioned officers, are required to complete Ranger School.
Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, a soldier who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, accused Cotton of appropriating the title and uploaded a picture of himself wearing a tan beret:”Hey @SenTomCotton, unless you wore one of these berets you shouldn’t be calling yourself a Ranger. Truth matters.”