Army ranger training is no stroll the park. It’s a rugged and intense two-month course that only the strongest of warriors can survive to graduate. The majority of trainees wash out or surrender and are either trained in a new career field or returned to the one they previously had.
It’s tough by design only because it has to be and it’s no reflection on the soldiers who try and fail. The Army is trying to keep them from getting killed in the close direct-line-of-fire combat situations these hardened troops are trained to jump straight into the heart of.
Cpl. James A. Requenez was excelling in ranger training. His buddies said he was a selfless team player who always carried more than his weight. He was a straight-up guy.
One year ago in March 2021 when Requenez was entering into the final phase of his training in Florida, for the first time, he raised a personal concern. He wasn’t sure of himself and began to doubt his ability to make it through the only phase that stood between him and graduation.
Though he’d tried to learn in the past, Requenez was a weak swimmer and found himself facing some concerning water challenges. Witnesses say he let his concerns be known, but to no avail, the 28-year-old soldier failed his final phase of ranger training due to death by drowning. Better to be drowned at home during training than in some faraway place.
Prior to the class leaving Georgia for water training in Florida, instructors asked the entire class if any of them were “weak swimmers,” to which Requenez’s hand shot in the air and was noted.
However, when the instructors in Florida administered a written water survival assessment, Requenez passed it with flying colors so anything he had let be known in Georgia no longer counted.
One of the student witnesses said that he and Requenez had spoken about him not being a strong swimmer and how having to do it with a rifle in one hand while wearing a load-bearing vest made him very uncomfortable. He didn’t want to have to do it, but if it was all that was left to graduate, he would.
Army policy states that anyone who is identified as a weak swimmer is forbidden from carrying special equipment through water because of the added weight. Despite his fears, Requenez decided the best way to overcome them was by volunteering to pack an M240 machine gun, and his kind gesture was granted.
Weak swimmers are also required to carry a waterproof glow stick they can wave in the air in case they run into trouble. Requenez didn’t have one. One of the witness statements said, “He willingly took the 240 that day and seemed fine throughout the swamp. He didn’t voice any struggles.” He didn’t until he got weak, and by this time, he was being largely ignored since he seemed to be handling himself well.
Per protocol, the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center investigated the incident and issued a “mishap” report with a recommendation should the Army ever sorta feel in the mood to have a serious enough look and maybe enact it.
One of the suggestions was for the instructors to start wearing life vests to give them a better chance of rescuing drowners. It isn’t that they didn’t try and save Requenez a little too late, it’s that they lost strength in the heavy current and failed to reach him.
Nieves Requenez, the deceased soldier’s widow, said, “The two instructors that did try to help my husband got tired. They think that with the life vests they could have been able to help a little bit more since they wouldn’t have lost a lot of energy.”
The other logical and more sensible solution would be for the instructors to listen to what they are verbally told instead of relying on an, obviously, worthless assessment. But maybe this makes too much sense…