A Ranger medic reflects on life in the Ranger Regiment and continued service

Jack Murphy
June 26, 2020 - 10:33 am
Ranger medic training

U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Eric Overfelt, 75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist

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Ian Kurashige was drawn to the Army, but his father was skeptical, to put it mildly.

"When I saw 9/11 happen I knew this was a world-changing event," Kurashige said in a recent interview. "I wanted to make sure I was contributing in a way that was positive."

His father was not having it. He had served in the Army during the post-Vietnam years and recalled a time when gang activity was rampant on military bases.

None the less, Kurashige entered into ROTC and got his college degree, but upon meeting those with military experience, he decided he would rather be an enlisted soldier in order to have more choice about his path in the Army and the opportunity to serve in the Special Operations community. He enlisted with a Ranger option, meaning he would have the chance to attended the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP) and if he graduated, serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

He went through RASP in 2010, the first four weeks a combination of physical assessments and some classroom work. On the third week they went out to the dreaded Cole Range and on the fourth week they did medical training. Then, they moved on to the second phase of RASP which was a more formal training experience designed to teach prospective Rangers the skills they would need when they arrived at their Ranger battalions. This included marksmanship, mobility training and the breacher course.

"Everyone is hands-on, everyone is getting trained," Kurashige recalled. They also got familiarized with night vision systems because, as Kurashige soon learned, Rangers basically live with night vision goggles on, as so many of their missions take place at night.

At graduation, "my dad, who had been so nervous about his Army experience, got to see that this was a little bit different," Kurashige said. "He was the one who put my (Ranger) scroll on me."

Ian Kurashige
Courtesy of Ian Kurashige

Since he had enlisted as a medic, Kurashige was next sent to the Special Operations Combat Medic (SOCM) course, which is known to be challenging.

"Within the realm of battlefield trauma, there is really no comparison," Kurashige said of Special Operations medics.

Getting assigned to 1st Ranger Battalion, Kurashige fell in love with the job and loved being a medic. Much of his job was about running sick call and helping Rangers get treatment for whatever issues they were facing and keeping them in the Army.

He was also deployed to Afghanistan, where he worked alongside a rifle platoon as a combat medic. When assaulting a compound there will be a breach point where the assault force is going to enter, so Kurashige would place himself nearby, "because if there are injuries that is where they are most likely to occur. I would be on the platoon sergeant's shoulder, doing room clearing with him sometimes ... it was a really interesting and really cool experience to be right there with a Ranger platoon sergeant who had been doing this for eight or nine years." 

Some of the challenges he faced were not just working on Rangers who had been injured, but also the host-nation partner force and even a military working dog at one point.

Kurashige's career was cut short by a parachute accident in which he broke his hip. He went through physical rehabilitation and was even able to deploy again, but then when he was sent to Ranger School he had to be dropped from the course because his previous injury was catching up with him. Ultimately, he had to be medically boarded out of the Army.

However, Kurashige continues to serve in the medical field, just in a different role. After the Army, Kurashige did humanitarian work in Nepal after an earthquake devastated the country in 2015 and in Haiti after the island nation was hit by a hurricane in 2016. After graduate school, he pursued a career in public health care policy.

"Most of the work I do is of analysis of non-infectious diseases like cancer and diabetes," he said. 

In regard to the recent pandemic and his observations from his current home in Brooklyn, New York, he said, "the complexity of different systems is a major vulnerability of the U.S. health system, it leaves a lot of places where people can fall through the cracks."

The American health care system is so complex that it requires strong local and federal leadership in order to grapple with a pandemic, he said.

"If there is anything I learned in Ranger battalion, it is that leadership needs to come from the top," Kurashige said.

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Reach Jack Murphy: jack@connectingvets.com or @JackMurphyRGR.