One of the most romantic branches of Starfleet is the Starfleet Rangers, a fairly recent innovation in the service. The Rangers emphasize planetary survival skills and the ability to work alone for long periods of time, allowing Rangers-operating both singly and in small groups-to explore, patrol, and protect the borders of Federation space.
Starfleet ranger training began as a series of courses at the Academy intended to teach planetary survival skills necessary for officers visiting undiscovered and unexplored worlds on the fringes of known space. While comprehensive, the survival courses were fairly basic, with some more advanced programs available.
The Rangers began to develop as a true branch of service during the Federation's first war with the Cardassian Union. The Cardassian War pointed to some weaknesses in Federation defense strategy; many young Starfleet officers operating on worlds like Setlik III and Davros III were unprepared for the requirements of guerrilla-style warfare and survival under the harsh conditions they encountered.
The remote locations of many Federation colonies along the Cardassian border made things even more difficult, spreading Starfleet resources thin. Although a single starship was more than capable of protecting a colony, Starfleet could not spare a ship for every single colony. In many ways, in fact, a Nebula or Ambassador Class ship with a crew of hundreds was overkill in responding to the kind of skirmish warfare the Cardassians were engaged in. A smaller, more precise, response was required.
Toward that end, Starfleet began the Ranger program, proposed by Captain Robert Crichton. The program trained Starfleet officers in planetary survival, scouting, small-unit tactics, and defensive strategies to protect small and often isolated colonies on border worlds. Officers who underwent the Ranger training program were better equipped to operate along the border worlds and to work in small groups or alone for extended periods of time, without the support of a large starship.
The program proved a success. The Rangers were able to better coordinate colony defenses against Cardassian raids, providing a quicker response time and putting a stop to incidents like the Setlik III massacre, which resulted largely from Starfleet's inability to be everywhere at once. The Rangers were everywhere, or at least that was how it must have seemed to the Cardassians, who now discovered a small and capable Starfleet presence on every colony world, ready and waiting for them. Rather than conducting sneak-attacks against helpless outposts, the Cardassians encountered prepared and armed resistance to their attacks, which allowed colonies to hold out long enough for help to arrive.
Many Rangers earned medals of commendation for their actions during the Cardassian War, despite this Starfleet Command decided not to maintain the Ranger program after the signing of the Cardassian peace treaty. Though there other trouble spots along the Federation frontier where their skills could be equally useful. Instead of maintaining smaller Ranger Units, Starfleet Command turned to the Starfleet Marines. This was handled through a general build-up of the corps just prior to the Federation Civil War. All Starfleet Rangers were reabsorbed into the fleet.
The sole black mark on the Rangers' spotless record came when a number of disbanded Starfleet Rangers once assigned to the DMZ chose to leave Starfleet and join the Maquis, a group of renegades opposed to Cardassian control of planets in and along the DMZ. To this day, the Rangers consider the Maquis defection an embarrassment, and they have a strong dislike for both the Maquis and the Cardassian military.
The Rangers proved invaluable to the 52nd Fleet during the Federation Civil War, since they were able to adapt well to the harsh conditions and manpower shortages caused by the conflict. While Starfleet vessels maneuvered in strategic battles against Doentiz Loyalist Forces and their occupied worlds, Rangers operated behind enemy lines, scouting out Loyalist strongholds and troop positions, sabotaging operations, and fermenting rebellion on Doenitz-controlled worlds. Starfleet awarded medals of valor to many Rangers for their actions during the war, including a small team of Rangers largely credited with overthrowing the Doenitz occupation of Bolarus IX in the final days of the war.
Today, the Starfleet Rangers have the status of a special branch of Starfleet Security. Starfleet officers from any department can serve in the Rangers under the aegis of the Security Branch. Some remain with the Rangers for many years, while others serve only a single tour of duty before accepting assignment elsewhere, usually a posting to a starship or starbase. Since the reformation of the Rangers, Starfleet has seen an increasing number of career Ranger officers, who have devoted their entire career to the organization. These officers are valued for their experience and their ability to teach their skills to a new generation of Rangers.
The Rangers remain under the command of Admiral Robert Crichton, the man who developed the program. Admiral Crichton is quite proud of "his" Rangers and does his best to ensure they receive the respect they are due, while at the same time pushing for expansion of the Ranger program and the use of Rangers in a wider range of tasks throughout the Federation. Currently, Admiral Crichton is stressing the Rangers' peaceful uses as aids to colonization.
The Starfleet Rangers specialize in "small-scale" operations, the sort of things where a large starship would either be overkill or simply impractical. Their duties break down into several broad categories: exploration, colonization, relief, and security.
Exploration duties include scouting and exploring newly discovered planets (in preparation for a full-scale planetary survey), investigating unusual planetary phenomena, and assisting Federation scientists in establishing research stations, particularly "duck blinds" for anthropological study of other species.
Colonization duties include assisting in the transportation of colonists and the establishment of new colonies, including site planning and development, establishing vital colony systems, mapping and survey expeditions, and similar operations.
Relief efforts involve Rangers rendering aid and assistance to Federation and allied worlds threatened or struck by natural disasters. Rangers plan and coordinate evacuations, deliver vital supplies and equipment, offer medical assistance, and help in rescue and rebuilding efforts following a disaster.
Finally, the Rangers act to protect the security of the Federation, particularly its borders and colonies. This includes investigating and assessing potential threats to the security of the Federation and its colonies, and conducting precision operations against Federation adversaries in time of war. It also includes peacekeeping operations during times of civil unrest, and assisting in smooth the transition between governments, such as following the Cardassian withdrawal from Bajor.
Since the end of the Civil War, the Rangers proved themselves in newly discovered areas like the Draconis Outback and the Kellinan Reach. They also protected Federation colonies in hot-spots like the Romulan Neutral Zone border, the border of the Klingon Empire, and in the newly established Cardassian Demilitarized Zone.