Hawk Mountain Ranger School is rich in history and service dating back to the 1950’s. Current students often have many questions about the origins of the school. Luckily, HMRS is grateful to have several pieces of living history still fostering the learning of today’s students. Lt Col Thomas Jenson was one of the early leaders of the program, and much of his work is still relevant decades later. Among other things, he wrote one of the early manuals on land search theory that became a standard text. However, what many people don’t know is that Jenson was the impetus for the creation of the grade of Expert Ranger; the pinnacle proficiency grade of the ranger training program.
Lt Col Jensen started the Expert Ranger program when he saw a need for a third-year Ranger course. Jensen designed the course and the special proficiency grade system that required demonstrating teamwork and a high level of skills proficiency while conducting operations in challenging search environments. Jensen’s father, a professor, helped to survey the property and assisted with some of the editing of the curriculum. It was essential that the field training comprise a manageable student to instructor ratio to give added teaching and an elevated complexity to keep Rangers on their toes and safe in all types of settings.
In the spring Col Jenson would train Ranger Staff cadets for the school. The staff cadets impressed him with their maturity level and the responsibility that the cadets took upon themselves. Rangers have come back to thank Col Jenson for their training and have attributed these skills in saving their lives while serving in Vietnam. Jensen said, “Hearing this was all the reward I needed!”
Jensen has attend Hawk Mountain Ranger school every year and has only missed once since 1963. Jensen was even at the Mountain the week his daughter was born. His wife was due on Wednesday. Jensen had designed a backpack radio powered with two lantern batteries so he could keep in touch when his wife went into labor. Luckily, he did not get the call until he had returned from a 28-mile hike that Friday. Fifty years later, he missed his first school to attend her birthday celebration.
Loyalty to the Mountain runs very deep with Jensen. He helped purchase the property when it came up for a sheriff’s sale. He was relieved when the property was ultimately acquired by the Pennsylvania Wing of Civil Air Patrol so it could continue to motivate Seniors and Cadets throughout the ages.
Jensen’s devotion to the Ranger Program continues to inspire and make a significant positive difference in the lives of so many students and staff. You are welcome to join this year’s students at Hawk Mountain Manger School this Saturday night for skit night to learn more of his story and the rich history of Hawk Mountain.