Fort Polk, LA –
FORT POLK, La. — Sgt. Joshua Cardwell, an orthopedic specialist for Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, graduated from the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, June 25.
The ranger course, developed during the Korean War was designed to build the combat skills of selected officers and enlisted personnel, requiring them to perform effectively as small-unit leaders in a realistic, tactical environment. Ranger School is one of the toughest training courses in the Army and consists of 61days of training broken down into three phases. Candidates must successfully complete each phase.
Cardwell always thought he would serve in the military. Growing up in California the Navy and Marine Corps were ever present. He never thought he would join the Army but he said he’s glad he did.
“I chose my military occupational specialty based on the recommendation of my recruiter. If I had to do again, I would have enlisted to be a 68W, combat medic, because it aligns more with my military aspirations and goals,” he said. “I have always wanted to go to Ranger School and am glad to have finally gotten the opportunity.”
Cardwell won the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Soldier of the Year in 2019. After winning the competition the post sergeant major worked with Cardwell and BJACH to facilitate attending the prestigious training course.
Cardwell said passing an airborne physical, the ranger screening (psychological review, background check, and urinalysis) and securing endorsement memorandums from his chain of command were required before he went to school.
“Ranger school is a leadership course. We developed squad and platoon leadership skills, with the added stressors of sleep and food deprivation” he said. “The course was challenging. We went non-stop for the full 61 days with 30 minutes of sleep each day if we were lucky. Every day we carried a heavy load, conducted a variety of different missions or patrols and exerted ourselves mentally and physically. We also did rappelling, rock climbing, mountaineering and water born operations.”
Cardwell said his class started with more than 400 candidates. Only 180 of the original class plus 54 more from previous courses graduated June 25.
“I’m proud of this accomplishment and happy that I can get a good night’s sleep again,” he said. “It was a great opportunity. For me in the medical world it’s not very common, I think I am the only 68B with a Ranger tab in the Army.”
Cardwell said he plans to go to airborne school next and hopes to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge in September.
“My advice to anyone who wants to go to Ranger School is to stay motivated, put in the effort and don’t give up,” he said. “There are a lot of great opportunities and places you can go in the Army.”
Cardwell jokingly said graduation was his favorite part of Ranger School.
“I had some great times during the training and I met some incredible people. We formed a bond through our shared experience and I probably wouldn’t have met them otherwise,” he said. “Anyone regardless of branch of service can participate. Ranger School isn’t just for the infantry. Anyone with the drive can do it regardless of rank, gender, MOS or national affiliation.”
Cardwell plans to make the Army his career.
“Short term I want to become a special operations medic,” he said. “Then I plan to attend the inter-service physician assistant program, become a PA, commission and eventually retire from the Army.”