The Desert Rangers are one of the most influential factions in the Wasteland, despite their relatively small size. Established in the image of the Texas and Arizona Rangers, their primary aim is helping survivors of the nuclear devastation rebuild and step forward into the future.
The Desert Rangers started as the 253rd Engineer Battalion of the Arizona National Guard, who were deep in the Arizona deserts constructing roads and bridges on that fateful day when the bombs fell in March of 1998. Their isolation saved their lives, but could do nothing for their frightened, broken hearts. One can only imagine the horror they felt as they listened to reports of their home cities and states being obliterated one after the other on their radios.
The engineers did not know how or why the nuclear war happened, no more than we do today, but their supplies, military training, and knowledge of the region gave them advantages over their fellow survivors during the apocalypse and the chaotic years that would follow. They commandeered a nearby federal prison, being welcomed as saviors by the few remaining prison guards, and in a show of mercy that might have perhaps been better if tempered by wisdom, the Rangers freed the prisoners into the desert.
Why? Perhaps they felt that the apocalypse had already killed enough people, perhaps they simply didn't want to waste ammo it would have taken to execute them. In any case, the prisoners survived, which lead to a volatile mix of survivors all living together in the wasteland - isolated farming communities, scientists from secretive research facilities, citizens of small towns just looking to get by, but opposite them were not just the rapidly mutating monsters of the desert, but equally monstrous humans, cultists and cannibals. Many of these threats were from the original prison population, as well as formerly law-abiding citizens who saw the end of the world as an excuse to abandon all of civilization's constraints.
Faced with such villains, the army engineers could have hidden in the prison and lived only for their own survival, but they did not. Hearing the cries for help coming from distant radios, they invited many to join them behind their strong walls. They aided other, more established, towns, helping them build walls and protect their homes, training them in the arts of defense and war, and helping them develop into strong, stable communities. Together with other cities in the area that survived, Quartz, Needles and even the Jewel of the Desert - Las Vegas - the inhabitants of the Ranger Center, now the Desert Rangers, began to work to rebuild and reestablish human civilization in the wastelands.
Though the Desert Rangers never gained the numbers to patrol the wastes in their entirety, it is thanks to their efforts in the century that followed that many communities in the wasteland flourished. They helped protect the community of Highpool until it could rebuild the pre-war defenses that now make it the most well protected source of water in the wastes. The Rangers helped the Rail Nomads repair their trains and expand their rail lines, allowing them to establish a thriving trading and transportation network. They also helped the residents of the Agricultural Center go from a tiny farming community to a food research facility that has the potential to lead the wasteland into a greener, healthier future.
A new threat
But despite these various successes, there was always a sense that the rangers were doing little more than holding back the tide, and that, were they to relax for but a moment, the raiders and madmen who lived on the fringes of Ranger territory would flood in and drown the young civilization before it had time to grow and stand on its own two feet.
And then, almost a full century after the end of the war, in 2087, a new threat rose that threatened this tenuous equilibrium more than any danger the Desert Rangers had faced before. Four Rangers - now legend - were sent out on a fairly standard assignment, patrolling and aiding the communities that the Desert Rangers had sworn to protect. They started in Highpool, a thriving community by now, but at that moment in need of a new generator for their water purification system. While helping the town to fix this problem, they saved a young boy from a rabid dog. Accounts differ as to what happened next, but apparently the owner of the dog - a young man named Bobby - attacked the rangers for killing his pet, and they were forced to kill him in self-defense.
The next few stops on their patrol were much less fraught with drama - they saved Ag Center from an animal invasion, bought an engine from the Desert Nomads, saved the Mayor in Quartz by defeating a mob boss named Ugly John, and freed a young mechanic named Ace, who joined them, and who has proven an asset to the Desert Rangers ever since.
But the wasteland is a place of madness and desperation, and insanity is not long in rearing its head. Which it did in the next town they visited: Needles. There they encountered the Servants of the Mushroom Cloud - who worship the nuclear holocaust itself - and the discovered the Temple of Blood. At this point rumors began to reach their ears that "something was wrong in the desert", but they could not get any clear word on what, only that they would find the answer in the cesspit known as Las Vegas.
In Vegas, the polite but dangerous crime lord Faran Brygo told them that killer cyborgs had been threatening the town, and that his right hand man Max knew more about them, but had disappeared. Further investigation led the rangers to the Las Vegas branch of the Servants of the Mushroom Cloud. Before she would talk to them, their leader, Charmaine, sent the rangers back to Needles to retrieve the Bloodstaff from the Temple of Blood. Once they brought it to her, she told them to search for Max in the sewers of Vegas.
It is here that the rumors the Rangers had been hearing were proved true. The sewers were swarming with androids! Metal monstrosities of all shapes and sizes roamed the underground, attacking on sight. After a brutal fight with the androids, the rangers found Max - or rather pieces of Max - as he turned out to be a lifelike but disassembled artificial human. Max had hoped to negotiate peace with the cyborgs, but was ripped apart for his troubles. Though not before he had learned where they had been coming from - an ancient, pre-apocalypse military facility called Base Cochise.
Armed with this information, the rangers marched off to end the cyborg menace, but it wasn't going to be as easy as walking through Base Cochise's front door. To fight the androids the rangers were going to need more and better equipment. To that end, they explored another old facility known as the Sleeper Base, where an automated training program taught them how to fly helicopters.
From there, they traveled to Darwin Village, yet another ancient military facility. To their horror, they found another major threat to the wastes here, as the former director of the facility, an insane cyborg by the name of Irwin John Finster, was creating dangerous mutated creatures that he hoped would inherit the planet once the cyborgs and a dangerous plague he'd developed had wiped out all humans. Unable to reason with Finster, the rangers decided to end this threat before it truly started, and destroyed him and the base.
Soon after, the rangers learned that the keys that would allow them to enter Base Cochise were held by a dangerous, xenophobic sect known as the Guardians of the Old Order, who were obsessed with preserving technology and keeping it out of the hands of the common people. When the Guardians responded to the rangers request for the keys with unnecessary force, the rangers assaulted their fortress, the Guardian Citadel a massive facility built into the side of a mountain. We now call the place Ranger Citadel.
In the end, Hell Razor, Angela Deth, Thrasher and Snake Vargas battled their way to the Guardians' inner sanctum, uncovering a cache of power armor and a functional Attack Helicopter, which they flew to Base Cochise, wiping out the android patrols sent to destroy them and landing on the roof. Inside the base, they found a malevolent computer known as the Base Cochise AI mass-producing the robot scourge.
The rangers tricked the AI into creating an administrative robot they named Vax, and with Vax's help, they dismantled the robot-making machinery. But knowing that the base would eventually repair itself - that they had only stopped the robot horde temporarily - they plunged into the heart of Base Cochise and fought through a gauntlet of mechanical madness to start a chain reaction of explosions that finally wiped the base off the map.
In the 15 years since, the Desert Rangers have moved their headquarters from the old prison facilities that had served them for a century to the larger and more secure Guardian Citadel. Initially there was some thought given to keeping the Prison staffed and returning it to its original purpose, but this would have required manpower that the Rangers needed to keep patrolling the wastes for remnants of Base Cochise's cyborg army and Finster's monstrosities. For while those threats were averted, the mark they left on the wasteland has not entirely faded. With their greatest danger passed, the Rangers are now a strong and well-respected force in Arizona, fully capable of fulfilling their promise to their fellow survivors of the apocalypse - that they will be ever-vigilant defenders of the wastes, and strive with hearts, minds and strength of arms, to bring about a new and better era of human civilization.
However, not all was good. In 2102, the Rangers were in tentative control of Arizona, extending their control to a number of settlements such as the agricultural center, Highpool, the Rail Nomads, and others, projecting power from their stronghold, the Ranger Citadel. However, strange radio transmissions began pouring in, with General Snake Vargas deciding to send Hell Razor and Ace out to investigate. Hell Razor was killed out at Rail Nomads, assassinated by unknown assailants, while Ace was found dead at a radio array he was investigating. Following his burial, Vargas gave orders to investigate the matter to Team Echo. Provided with triangulation devices to attach to surviving radio arrays across Arizona, Team Echo set out on a journey that eventually brought them to Damonta, where they identified a new threat to humanity: The Children of the Citadel.
Setting out to California from the Citadel, the first team was headed by Angela Deth, seeking revenge for the death of Ace. She was lost without a trace. Team Echo followed with Wade Woodson, setting up at Santa Fe Springs and exploring the derelict Los Angeles. They came across new factions: The Mannerites, God's Militia, Hollywood, and the Children themselves. Eventually, they realized the magnitude of the threat, but not before Matthias, leader of the Children, launched an offensive against Arizona and the Ranger Citadel. Their goal? To liberate the copy of Cochise sleeping in the vaults beneath, in the section of the Citadel the Rangers never managed to access. In the bloodletting that followed, the Rangers narrowly avoided a second holocaust: General Vargas sacrificed himself, detonating the nuclear weapon kept at the Citadel to wipe out the last traces of the AI - and with it, the Ranger headquarters.
General Wade Woodson was voted in and assumed command, resettling the Rangers at the radio array that started the whole adventure. Without the resources of the Citadel and much of their number, the Rangers fell on hard times, with the whole of Arizona suffering. The LA Rangers that formed in California were unable to establish a lifeline and aid their Arizona brethren, due to the radiation wall separating the regions. Only Angela Deth, together with a handful of her closest associates from Los Angeles, managed to brave the miles of irradiated desert separating the regions, coming across Rangers at their nadir. The Red Skorpion Militia, emboldened by the destruction of the Citadel, has been steadily worming its way into power across Arizona, displacing the weakened Rangers. While Robert Danforth was making overtures of peace, the truth was different.
After Rangers were forced to retreat from the Rail Nomads, the Militia stepped in. After abducting the leaders of the Topekans and the Atchisons, who worked together after Team Echo mended the divide between them, Danforth's men put them to work on restoring rail connections to the south and constructing an armored train, complete with a massive rail cannon. Danforth never forgave Team Alpha and Snake Vargas for what happened at Highpool a quarter of a century earlier, and the train was meant to be his trump card: Eliminating the Desert Rangers once and for all with overwhelming firepower. Woodson was unaware of it and tried to keep the returning Captain Deth on ice, to avoid provoking Danforth. However, Angela managed to slip out of the Ranger base camp and infiltrate Rail Nomads.
There, she discovered the armored train in the final stages of refitting, shortly before being captured. Left for dead in a mined warehouse together with the Rail Nomads' hostages, Deth and the Nomads managed to break out against all odds, catch up with the train and derail it, before coming to the Rangers' rescue. Danforth's Militia pressed the attack and nearly overran the base, but Deth managed to intervene just in time, cutting through Militia lines in an attack on the rear and confronting Danforth. His death caused the RSM to fall apart almost instantly, saving the Rangers.
However, things barely improved. Five years later, in 2107, the situation became desperate, with Arizona on the verge of famine and collapse. That's when Saul Buchanan, the Patriarch of the Colorado, contacted the Rangers with a simple offer: Supplies, men, and materiel in return for their help in salvaging Colorado. General Woodson immediately dispatched Colonel Angela Deth, who survived California, to Colorado. Once again, she disappeared shortly after arriving.
The Rangers are a paramilitary outfit, with a fairly relaxed command structure. While all Rangers are expected to obey the orders of their superiors, Ranger teams are given a great deal of leeway when it comes to solving problems. Teams are usually composed of four Rangers (one team leader and three regular Rangers) and operate independently. Special purpose teams, like Team Delta under Captain Hunter exist, intended to hunt down rogue Rangers.
Regular patrols are carried out in lands under the Rangers' protection. Originally, this included only Highpool and the agricultural center, with some reaching Quartz and rail nomad, but after 2087 and the claiming of the Guardian Citadel, the Rangers pulled in their borders from the east and expanded their operations westwards (though the shifting radiation clouds have denied access to Needles and Las Vegas.
In return for protection, the settlements provide the Rangers with necessary supplies and enjoy their help whenever a crisis arises. For example, Highpool provides water, Ag Center foodstuffs and raw resources (ammonium nitrate being the principal one), while Leve L'Upe mine is the principal source of minerals and raw ores.
The Desert Rangers are the closest thing Arizona has to a government. Desert Rangers enforce the law, settle disputes, and aid the wasteland in rebuilding human civilization. By forging close ties with neighboring communities and uniting them under their banner, the Rangers hope to bring about a restoration of humanity. Their practice has been spotty: While they did defeat Cochise and the AI's robot army, Snake Vargas' passive policy in subsequent years prevented the Rangers from establishing a real government. Indirectly, it also allowed for groups like the Red Skorpion Militia to establish control in areas that fell outside Ranger jurisdiction. Furthermore, although the Rangers were not aware of it at the time, the destruction of the Guardians and Cochise led to the rise of Matthias, who established the Children of the Citadel as a faction vehemently opposed to the Rangers in all affairs.
But by 2104, two years after the conclusion of the second war with the Cochise AI, the Rangers ended up losing most of their influence in Arizona. While the destruction of Ranger Citadel ultimately saved Arizona, and the whole world, it resulted in the Rangers losing the goodwill of their neighbors. This is worsened by the fact that due to their now-lower numbers, they are less able to maintain security in allied communities.
In California though, they were in far better shape in comparison to Arizona, thanks to Team Echo's efforts during their time there. By 2104, the LA Rangers have maintained good relations with the rest of LA's communities. They are supported by Rodia, and is generally known as a place for where Rangers can get medical treatment, and they are welcome in Hollywood thanks to the alliance of the God's Militia and the HCC, which was brokered by Team Echo years before.
Originally, the Rangers relied on whatever Army equipment they had with them when the nuclear war happened. Their Jeeps died shortly before reaching the federal prison, depriving them of vehicular transport. However, the light manufacturing facilities inside the prison, along with the weapons, ammunition, and supplies found within provided them with a powerbase from which they could expand into the neighbouring wastelands. Although they did not have access to advanced weapons, what they scavenged and manufactured allowed them to kit out Rangers with standard sets by 2087, usually a sidearm (a VP91Z or a Colt M1911), gear, and a light green battle dress uniform with a PASGT helmet for protection.
The conquest of the Guardian Citadel in 2087 greatly expanded their industrial and technological base. No longer merely scavengers, the Guardians' facilities and stores (after clearing them of garbage and junk) provided them with materiel and tools necessary to manufacture low grade weapons and armor from scratch as well as restore combat armor and energy weapons to working condition. Furthermore, though the original attack chopper crashed at Cochise, the Rangers were able to restore two more to working order. Under Captain Ethil Mercaptain, Ranger R&D efforts began in earnest, leading to the development of a number of unique weapon systems by 2102. At that point, the Rangers were by far the most well equipped and technologically advanced faction on Arizona soil.
That's not to say they have no reverence for the past: Many Ranger badges are more than a century old, passed from one generation of Rangers to the next.
The Ranger badge has undergone various iterations and designs, from the original Texas and Arizona Ranger badges, nobly worn by the first Desert Rangers, and passed on as an heirloom to younger generations, to the more modern simple star roundel inscribed with "Desert Rangers", utilized to signify veteran status to some.
Arizona Rangers (Wasteland 1 & 2)
The founding chapter of the Desert Rangers, their current main base of operations is a "tent city" around a radio array that started the chain of events that led to the destruction of Ranger Citadel. They've ironically dubbed the place the new Ranger Citadel. 
LA Rangers (Wasteland 2)
Current status is unknown, as they are unable to reliably contact the Arizona Rangers due to the radiation that came from the crater that used to be the old Ranger Citadel. They've established a headquarters in Santa Fe Springs, and two of its known members, Pistol Pete and Brother Thomas, have joined Angela Deth in her journey back to Arizona.
Colorado Rangers (Wasteland 3)
After being decimated during an ambush by a plain gang called the Dorseys. the survivors of Ranger Team November established the Colorado Chapter of the Desert Rangers after being given access to Peterson Air Force Base by the Patriarch, along with some fresh supplies and recruits. It's unknown whether or not the original Rangers of Team November stayed in Colorado after concluding their original mission.
Deth (Wasteland 3)
Angela Deth leads a squad of veteran Rangers, originally sent as an advance scouting team to Colorado, to covertly fight the Patriarch and free Colorado from his rule, going against the direct orders from Ranger Command in Arizona. It's unknown whether or not the Colorado Rangers assisted them in their mission to depose the Patriarch.
- The History of the Desert Rangers
- Morningstar conversation.
- No Way Home
- No Way Home, p.47: "“Losing the Citadel and setting that bomb off saved the day but cost us a lot of goodwill with the neighbors. We don’t have the support we used to, we don’t have the numbers we used to, and the guys we do have, most of them only joined up in the last year. Our place here’s changed since you left, and there’s new things happening I barely have a handle on yet. You don’t understand what Arizona is now.”"
- No Way Home, p.28: "While they ate, McDade and Veronica filled her in on recent changes to the way God’s Militia operated in Hollywood. “We have your Rangers to thank for ushering in a new era of peace,” Ascension told her, his voice trembling. “The old Militia was corrupt in so many ways. The vilest of sins were committed in God’s name. Sins of greed, sins of the flesh...” Under the table, Veronica stomped her foot, and McDade bit his lip. “You already know how they helped us here in Hollywood, Captain Deth. We’re incredibly grateful.”"
- No Way Home, p.44: "Matt led Angela through the tent city that had sprung up around the radio tower. “It’s not the old base,” he said, “but it’s home.”
- Wasteland 2 endings