Philmont Rangers are backpacking guides who work in the Ranger Department at Philmont Scout Ranch, the largest youth facility in the world, during the summer season. These Philmont staff members are responsible for ensuring that backpacking crews are adequately prepared to complete their ten-day treks in the southern Rocky Mountains of northeastern New Mexico. Rangers are trained in first aid and CPR, Search-and-Rescue techniques, bear and mountain lion safety procedures, how to navigate in the backcountry, and various principles of small-group leadership. There were around 200 Rangers in 2010, guiding some 20,000 Scouts and Scouters throughout almost 140,000 acres during the course of the summer season.
Rangers, as is the case with most Philmont Scout Ranch seasonal staff, are almost always young adults who are college-age (between 18 and 25).
The Ranger Department had roughly 250 members in 2010 (official number on June 1 was 254) and was headquartered in the Ranger Office building at Philmont Scout Ranch camping headquarters (colloquially known as Base Camp). The Ranger Department was founded in 1957 and expanded over time, currently guiding some 20,000 Philmont participants annually. The Ranger Office building previously served as a chapel and its distinctive shape helps the building stand out from a distance, especially to Rangers hiking in along the Tooth Ridge Trail or Beaubien Road. Behind the Ranger Office is male Ranger Tent City, where male Rangers reside when not out in the backcountry with a crew. A substantial addition to the Ranger Office was completed in 2010, with new office space available for members of Department upper leadership.
The Ranger Department is headed by the Chief Ranger, an experienced staff member who oversees the Department and works closely with Ranch leadership. He or she is supported by three or four Associate Chief Rangers, who each have an area of expertise: Search-and-Rescue, Special Projects, Banquets, or Ranger Work Days. The Chief Rangers is also supported by three teams of two Coordinators, or heads of specialized programs. There are two Mountain Trek Coordinators, two Rayado Trek Coordinators, and two Service Academy Coordinators. There is also a Scheduling Coordinator who creates the daily work assignments for the Department.
Ranger work schedule
Rangers often work for three and a half days and have a day and a half off (3.5 to 1.5). Rangers pick up their crews on the first day, spend the second and third days with them on the trail, and spend part of the fourth day with them before leaving them and heading back to Base Camp on their hike-in day. If not required for taking out crews, Rangers may be assigned other duties.
Different types of Rangers
Philmont Rangers typically spend up to three and a half days with each regular crew, taking up to a dozen crews out into the backcountry during the course of a summer. However, Rangers, particularly those with more than one season of experience, have opportunities to go on different treks with special crews.
Rangers can seek to take out Mountain Treks, spending six days with a crew of youth, ages 14–20, whose parents are undergoing adult leader training at the Philmont Training Center. There are two Rangers per Mountain Trek. There is a separate position of Mountain Trek Ranger. Mountain Trek Rangers are designated to take out Mountain Treks, though they can also take out regular crews when there are no Mountain Treks for them to pick up.
Rangers can apply to be Rayado Rangers, spending twenty days with a crew of youth, ages 15–20, on a super-strenuous trek. There are two Rangers per Rayado crew, with two sessions of Rayado occurring per summer. Many participants of Rayado treks return in later summers as Rangers.
Rangers, upon completion of at least one season, can apply for promotion to the position of Ranger Trainer. Ranger Trainers train, supervise, and evaluate crews of 8-10 Rangers. There were 26 Ranger Trainers in 2010 (one for each of the 26 Ranger Training crews).
Service Academy Rangers
Students from the three largest United States Service academies, namely the United States Air Force Academy, United States Military Academy, and United States Naval Academy, can apply to be Philmont Rangers for a 3-4 week session as one of their three summer training courses. These cadets and midshipmen are trained, supervised and evaluated by their Academy Ranger Trainers and the Ranger Department Service Academy Coordinators and typically take out three or four crews. Most Academy Rangers have a Scouting background and/or have backpacking experience.
Many crews have adult advisors who are forced to leave the backcountry for various reasons, often related to illness or injury. If one advisor leaves the backcountry and there are fewer than two advisors remaining with the crew, a Ranger must be sent to accompany the crew until the advisor returns. Since each crew must have an adult advisor age 21 or older per gender (i.e. one over-21 male and one over-21 female in a coed Venture crew), Rangers who are 21 or older often serve as Replacement Advisors.