Sen. Tom Cotton Bragged He Was an ‘Army Ranger.’ He Was Not

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), the infamous author of the New York Times op-ed calling for troops to break up Black Lives Matter protests, has lied about details of his military service, according to an investigation by Salon’s Roger Sollenberger.

Cotton, who first ran for Congress in 2012, claimed during that campaign that he had served as “a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan” and “volunteered to be an Army Ranger.” But, Sollenberger uncovered, Cotton never was an Army Ranger, he only attended the Army’s two-month Ranger School. Attending that training let him wear a tab on his arm that says “Ranger,” but that did not qualify him as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the Army’s elite special operations force.

Cotton served in the Army for eight years with two tours of duty in war-zones. His military personnel records list eight medals and his “Ranger tab” from attending the U.S. Army Ranger Course. But Sollenberger found interviews and campaign materials where Cotton portrayed himself as an Army Ranger, an honor he never earned.

“My experience as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan and my experience in business will put me in very good condition,” Cotton said in a 2012 interview with the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record. And in another interview, Cotton claimed that he “became an infantry officer and an Army Ranger.”

But the Army’s own website makes clear the distinction between joining the 75th Ranger Regiment and taking the U.S. Army Ranger Course. “People often confuse the 75th Ranger Regiment with the U.S. Army Ranger Course,” the regiment’s public affairs office wrote. But to join the Ranger regiment, members of the Army have to pass the “Ranger Assessment Selection Program [RASP] 1, 2, or both.” Cotton did not.

The U.S. Army Ranger Course, on the other hand, which Cotton did attend, is described as “the Army’s premier leadership school” and is “open to all members of the military.” A school literally anyone in the military can attend is a far cry from the RASP, which the Army says is “designed to test a Soldier’s physical and mental strength under extreme conditions.”

When Sollenberger reached out to Cotton’s office for a comment, his spokesperson, Caroline Tabler, replied, “Senator Cotton graduated from Ranger school and is more of a Ranger than a Salon reporter like you will ever be.”

But of course, any actual member of the 75th Ranger Regiment would be more of a Ranger than Tom Cotton will ever be. For example, former U.S. Army Ranger Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) who tweeted a selfie in the iconic Ranger beret Saturday after the story broke: “Hey @SenTomCotton, unless you wore one of these berets you shouldn’t be calling yourself a Ranger. Truth matters.”

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