Tabbed Out: Maj. Michael R. Thompson

THOMPSON     Adorned on their uniforms, tabs and badges display how a soldier has reached an upper echelon of expertise in the profession.

Maj. Michael R. Thompson has earned the Ranger tab and the Senior Parachutist’s badge.

Thompson earned his Ranger tab in 2003 as a second lieutenant.

Thompson’s motivation for earning the Ranger tab was not for notoriety.

Thompson said his chief motivation was perception.

“For me, going to Ranger school I thought was important because I knew I was going to be an infantry platoon leader,” said Thompson. “I would be arriving as the newest member of the platoon. So I wanted to have every tool I could get.”

As a second lieutenant, Thompson said if he had shown up without a Ranger tab, his platoon would assume he had failed Ranger school.

“I wanted to show up with whatever small amount of credibility I could get,” said Thompson.

Thompson attended Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP) in 2010.

RASP is a program designed to eliminate candidates who are not capable of assignment to 75th Ranger Regiment.

The training severely limits the amount of sleep and constantly punishes perspective Rangers.

Ultimately, Rangers are looking for leaders said Thompson said of the now eight-week course. “You work under conditions where there is extreme physical and emotional stress.”

Perspective Rangers must learn what their limitations are while learning how to motivate themselves and others, said Thompson.

“To do things even though it’s not going to be mentally, physically, or emotionally easy,” said Thompson.

The grueling process led to a position earned in second Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

While in 2/75 from 2011-2013, Thompson deployed twice to Afghanistan.

The most memorable moment for Thompson during his deployment was the quick tempo of Ranger operations.

“We conducted special operations raids with very short notice,” said Thompson. “And had amazing effects on the enemy.”

The difficult training cycle aside, Thompson looks at his time in the 2/75 as incredibly rewarding.

“The 75th Ranger Regiment has advanced equipment and training not found in any other unit,” said Thompson. “Rangers frequently jump out of airplanes, fly in helicopters, drive unique special operations vehicles, detonate explosives, or conduct a live-fires during training and real world operations.”

“It’s all the stuff every Infantryman joined the Army to do,” said Thompson.

Thompson’s other accomplishments include a Senior Parachutist’s badge, awarded after a soldier is both Airborne (Three week course) and Jumpmaster (Two week course) qualified.

The Senior Parachutist’s badge identify a leader on Airborne missions, Thompson said. The badge is awarded after a combination of 30 specific types of jumps with a minimum of 15 jumps that include combat equipment.

“The hardest thing about jumpmaster school though is the attention to detail required,” said Thompson. “I think that’s the biggest piece translated to the Old Guard is the attention to detail.”

Leadership skills learned in Ranger school now help Thompson in his new position with the Old Guard.

“Our mission here is obviously a very important and highly visible mission,” said Thompson. “Its one that just like anywhere else, leaders need to make good decisions and take care of soldiers.”

“That’s all stuff I learned how to do in Ranger school,” said Thompson.

Thompson said badges do not tell the whole story of a soldier, however.

“All these badges and medals everything you wear on your uniform, all that is just a first impression,” said Thompson. “The second you start working with someone, you find out what they are really like.”

“When you start working for subordinates and those that you work for, immediately they make and assessment on you,” said Thompson. “Its deeper then just whatever badges and medals you are wearing.”

Thompson joined the Army 12 years ago and has been assigned to the Old Guard for the past two.

The differences between The Old Guard and other units are obvious, Thompson said. Fundamentally, the mission here is unlike other units.

However, the core foundation for success is the same.

“Leadership qualities, the day-to-day, a lot of it is really similar here,” said Thompson. “One thing that is difference is we are working with hand-picked, high quality soldiers and NCOs (non-comissioned officers).”

“I think it’s important here to lead from the front and lead by example,” said Thompson. “Being a caring leader is also important here.”

Thompson said he eats in the dining facility daily. It is important to know how soldiers are being treated, he said.

Thompson also does regular drill and ceremony training. He said it is important if he expects his staff to march around in the heat, he do so as well.

Thompson sees the Old Guard performing its role as meeting the public’s perception of a soldier.

“We are the face of the army,” said Thompson. “We provide that unit that looks like the United States Army. What we want the United States Army to look like, what the American people want the United States Army to look like.”

It is in this way Thompson’s tab and badge mirror the Old Guard.

The Old Guard meets expectations.


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