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The June 20 graduation of Ranger School Class 6-14 marked an historic occasion, as for the first time, a Chilean soldier was among the Rangers earning their Ranger tab.
Chilean 1st Lt. Hernan Oyanguren, who serves as a platoon leader for Chile's Special Operations Brigade, said after the ceremony he was still surprised to be the first from his country to complete Ranger School.
"Being a Ranger is really important to me," he said. "I still don't believe it. ... I'm still in shock that I'm the first one. When I came here, I didn't really realize that I was the first one and how important it was."
At the end of the graduation ceremony, Oyanguren stood with 246 fellow Ranger graduates and recited the Ranger Creed, something he said was an emotional moment for him.
"It was really touching because it represented the end of 62 very hard days," Oyanguren said. "My wife and the Chilean liaison officer who helped me all the way through were both here, so it was really emotional. I did the job and I accomplished the mission, so I'm very happy."
Oyanguren said the first week of Ranger School at Fort Benning and the final Florida Phase were the most challenging times.
It was during these tough times he learned the importance of teamwork, a lesson he said he will carry with him back to Chile.
"Teamwork is the key here," Oyanguren said. "You don't make it if you don't work for each other. Here, you can give 100 percent, but it doesn't matter how much you give if your teammates aren't giving 100 percent as well."
But while Oyanguren learned lessons to take back to Chile, his presence in the course also provided benefits to the other students.
Lt. Col. Brian McDonald, the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade deputy commander, said having international students such as Oyanguren in the course helps forge lifetime bonds between Chilean and American Soldiers.
"Our students and the international students get a chance to get to know each other in not the best of settings," he said. "They have to experience austere conditions - lack of food, lack of sleep. Those bonds that are established can do a lot more in many ways than a battalion tasked to another country's unit for an exercise. ... What's great about this is it allows us to share commonalities. When you're hungry, wet and cold or hot, you quickly learn that you have a lot more similarities than you do differences."
With Oyanguren's graduation, both he and McDonald expressed a desire to see more Chileans attend the course in the near future.
"What's great about Chile is they have a presence here at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, so it's a win-win for all of us in that we have a liaison officer at the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Chilean officers at WHINSEC, so when Chilean officers come here, they have a little bit of an infrastructure already here that can help get them through," McDonald said.
"Hopefully in future years we can send more officers to attend Ranger School because it's a beautiful course," Oyanguren said. "It's tough, but it's beautiful. ... I will try to talk with my superiors and tell them just how excellent and what a great opportunity Ranger School is."