Out of 96 students who will be graduating from grueling U.S. Army Ranger School in Fort Benning, Georgia this Friday, two will be women for the first time ever. The historic class started in April with 381 men and 19 women attending, and after what is known as one of the most strenuous mental and physical military tests in the world, two women emerged victorious for the first time ever.
The women — whose names have not been released by Army officials yet — who made it through were part of a group of soldiers that failed aspects of Ranger School on the first try, which is a common occurrence regardless of sex. This delayed their finishing the 62-day long test, but in the end two of the women passed. According to the Army Times:
The women, both officers, started the Swamp Phase on Aug. 1 after three tries at the school’s first phase, known as the Darby Phase, at Fort Benning, Georgia, and one try at the second phase, known as the Mountain Phase, in Dahlonega, Georgia.
Although the female graduates will be able to sport the coveted Ranger tab after graduation, a sign to all that they completed the Army’s most rigorous front-line leadership course, they will not be able to join a front-line ground combat unit, including the possibility of becoming a member of the vaunted 75th Ranger Regiment.
Even letting women attempt Ranger School was seen as an experiment by the Army. Now the military will have decide where their newly minted and tested female Rangers will go. Obviously, these women did not go through this kind of hell to go work a desk job or stand back from the front lines, but for the coming months, that is where they will most likely be.
This documentary, although slightly dated, gives a good detailed insight into what it is like going through the infamous Ranger School.
As of now, the Pentagon wants all jobs open to women by next year, including Special Forces oriented ones. That is unless certain units can make a good enough case to receive a waiver. We shall see how this waiver process works out. Still, the fact that the Pentagon wants to change the baseline rules that precludes women from many front-line jobs by next year means America’s female Rangers should be heading to a combat unit relatively soon where they can apply their newly acquired deadly skills and leadership abilities.
For some, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear a story like this is if this new initiative is some sort of social engineering experiment on by the Pentagon, one where minimums and qualification levels are reduced for female applicants. This is not the case, as standards are the same for both male and female Ranger hopefuls. At this time, this concept is where some of the special operations community and other combat communities are learning towards when it comes to incorporating women in their elite ranks.
I have talked to many service members, from grunts to Fighter Weapons School instructors, and even special forces operators, about this very issue. Beyond some outliers not as progressive on this issue, the response I get is pretty much the same: “If they can meet the exact same standards men meet than welcome to the team.”
Obviously some communities within the military have different cultures than others, and many have different physical requirements to suit their particular mission sets. As such, it will be interesting to see if the Navy SEALs will put a woman through Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUDS) anytime soon. With even the Secretary of Navy seemingly onboard for flat standards across the selection process, this could very well happen in the not so distant future.
Still, the pair of women who will wear the Ranger tab for the first time in over 65 years since the school’s founding are a good sign that female warriors are out there ready if given the chance to prove themselves. In the end, I think the services will be so much better off for it.
We have learned time and time again that discriminating against those who want the chance to serve and fight on the same terms as their established counterparts usually just ends up with the military finding out they are formidable fighters. As such their exclusion, whether based on color, sex or creed, from the front lines ends up being a dark mark on the military’s history.
Photos via U.S. Army
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.