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First EOD Airman earns invite to Ranger School

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Since the inception of Ranger training in 1950, only a handful of Airmen are allotted to attend the school annually and less than 300 Airmen have completed the 61-day course. Staff Sgt. Lee Cundiff, 31st Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, will be the first EOD Airman to ever get a shot at earning the coveted Ranger tab.


Airmen challenge themselves on many levels every day. It’s engrained in every Airman to be excellent in all they do from the moment they begin their military career.


Cundiff has challenged himself during his short six-year tenure and recently surpassed one of his biggest challenges, graduating a Ranger Assessment Course in Fort Bliss, Texas, May 3, 2016.


The RAC is a grueling 15-day course designed to put U.S. Armed Forces members through the toughest of combat related tasks to prepare them for Ranger School. This course pushes their physical and mental limits.


“This course challenged me in ways I could have never imagined,” said Cundiff. “It’s high speed and constant chaos from the very beginning and it doesn’t stop until you’ve graduated.”


Throughout RAC, candidates are required to complete an Army Ranger physical assessment test, a 12-mile ruck march, land navigation course, combat water survival, weapons maintenance, small unit tactics and foot patrols.


“I trained daily prior to attending RAC,” said Cundiff. “There’s no way I could have prepared myself for what the 13 other graduates and myself experienced. Some of the course material I had never done before and the mental battles we faced daily posed an extreme challenge.”


With every stride he took, Cundiff ignored the physical pain and battled the psychological as he progressed from one challenge to another.


“Some days all we were given to eat was a hydration powder to put in our canteens, and on average we slept an hour a night.” said Cundiff. “Nearly everyone experienced what the instructors would call ‘droning’. It’s where you’re so mentally and physically tired you would start to hallucinate. We had people talking to trees, falling asleep standing up and one even asked the rest of the team if we saw the boat in the room. . . we were in a field.”


From beginning to end, Cundiff and his teammates constantly reminded themselves to continue fighting despite the pain and fatigue.


“The guys on my left and right kept me fighting through every challenge the instructors threw our way,” said Cundiff. “What really kept me going was the thought of having to call my family, friends and coworkers to tell them that I quit. That just wasn’t an option.”


Of the 13 graduates, Cundiff and three other Airmen received the “go” to attend the Ranger School. He was also rated first amongst his peers. Cundiff is now training for Ranger School which, will begin at the end of this year.