To say the U.S. Army’s Ranger School is legendary is a bit of an understatement. Its roots go back to 1950, when training first took place with the formation and training of 17 Airborne Companies. The Army’s Infantry School established the Ranger Department officially in December of 1951, and the first class took place at Fort Benning, Georgia, between January and March of 1952. At that time, Ranger School lasted for 59 days and it was strictly voluntary. Over the years, the length changed from 59 to 65 to 68 days. In addition, Ranger School swung from voluntary to mandatory (for Army officers upon commissioning) and back to voluntary. Today, Ranger School is a 61-day course with each day stretching out with 19.6 hours of training. Throughout the many changes the school has seen over the last 64 years, one thing has remained constant: only men need apply.
That’s about to change.
On September 12, 2014, the Army made the no-less-than-earth-shaking announcement that women were being invited to apply for Ranger School.
While this announcement doesn’t exactly come as a surprise after the Army’s 2013 decision to allow women into combat positions, it was still a bit of a shock for many both within and without the military community. More importantly, this announcement comes as ground forces are being sent back into Iraq; this is not a quiet, peaceful time to be dipping your toes into the SF pool. Of course, it isn’t set in stone just yet. The final decision to move forward with carrying out an integrated Ranger School class for assessment purposes probably won’t be made until January of 2015, but the Army wants to be prepared, so they’re getting the ball rolling.
There are two sides to the Ranger School openings. First are the actual participants, women who wish to attend Ranger School in hopes of earning the coveted Ranger Tab. These women must be between the ranks of specialist and major, and they need to meet the current physical requirements set forth by the school. If they’re chosen to participate and manage to complete training and graduate, they get their certificate and Ranger Tab. However, they won’t be serving alongside the men just yet. The Army is still making decisions regarding allowing women into the combat arms MOS, so even if they do graduate from Ranger School they will not receive Ranger skill identifiers or be assigned to a unit.
The second group of applicants being welcomed falls under the category of observers and advisers. Those women must rank between staff sergeant and master sergeant, chief warrant officers 2 and 3, and first lieutenant to major. Although those observers and advisers would be physically present for training, they would not actually serve as instructors and also will not evaluate any students. Why have them there? According to brigade commander Col. David Fivecoat, they’d be used as extra eyes and ears, but they’d also serve an important purpose: easing the transition. Fivecoat accurately calls the move to bring women into Ranger School “a major change” and said “We thought it would be helpful to bring women into the course prior to the arrival of the first women students” in part to deal with any “isolation” issues but also to give women “an opportunity to succeed.” On the surface it does seem logical to bring women in to oversee women.
The rules for women applying to Ranger School are as follows:
- Ranks as listed above
- Volunteer only, no one can be directed or ordered to participate.
- Volunteers are required to have an end term of service date not before October 1, 2016.
- Volunteers must take a pregnancy test during in-processing; pregnant women will be disenrolled.
- Volunteers must have a validation letter from their commander at in-processing. The contents of that letter must attest to their proficiency at Ranger tasks and all assessment phase requirements (see physical requirements below).
- Prior to the start of Ranger School, students will attend the Army National Guard’s 2-week Ranger Training and Assessment Course. Failing RTAC doesn’t necessarily mean a student will be dropped from Ranger School.
- All volunteers are strongly encouraged to do the ARTB’s 90-day physical training plan. Fivecoat said he recommends women start “right now.”
- Enlisted volunteers are required to have a standard General Technical score of 90 or above.
- Volunteers have until December 1, 2014, to apply to attend Ranger School.
Physical requirements for getting into Ranger School in the first place include performing a minimum of 49 push-ups in two minutes, at least 59 sit-ups in two minutes, a minimum of 6 pull-ups (one assumes these are quickly consecutive), and completing a 5-mile run in 40 minutes or less. Also required is completion of the combat water survival assessment, which consists of removing equipment and completing a 15-meter swim in ACU’s and boots. Physical requirements must be met within 90 days of candidate’s reporting to Ranger School.
The rules for women applying as observers and advisers are as follows:
- Ranks as listed above
- Volunteers are required to meet both height and weight standards and cannot have physically limiting profiles.
- All volunteers will be assessed according to their ability to perform Ranger tasks and Ranger Assessment Phase requirements. According to Fivecoat, they “need to make sure the observer/adviser can keep up” because “Ranger instructors walk for 24-hour periods with the Ranger students.”
- Volunteers that have DS or AIT platoon sergeant experience, combat training center observer and/or controller experience, or who have already completed physically demanding Army courses are “highly desired” although these things are not requirements.
- Those wishing to apply must submit a packet including: their record brief, last 3 eval reports, an Army physical fitness scorecard no older than 6 months from the date of their submission, and a letter to the ARTB commander outlining why they want to be an observer and adviser. Said letter should be only 1 to 2 paragraphs in length and cannot extend beyond 1 page.
- Those selected will be assessed over 8 days at Fort Benning. That assessment will include judging their ability to meet physical requirements and they’ll also be expected to provide a written after-action report and do an exit interview. Physical requirements include completion of a fitness test, land nav, combat water survival assessment, operations order test, 12-mile road march with a 35-pound ruck, and review boards.
- All volunteers must turn in their applications by October 10, 2014. The selection process will take place quickly with notifications taking place by October 20, 2014. Assessments will occur in mid-November and those who qualify will return in December to observe a class of male students.
The Army is aware they’re in for more than a few changes if they do carry out this one-time integrated assessment class next spring. Fivecoat said the ARTB is already busy figuring out what needs to be done to get Ranger School ready for female participants. Among necessary changes are the most obvious, such as changes to the barracks, latrines, and showers, and less immediately obvious adjustments such as changing medical pre-screening and, above all, deciding the different requirements for females overall. It’s the latter causing no small amount of concern for many. So what’s the bottom line?
The physical standards for this one-time integrated assessment class are not technically being lowered. Getting in will be the same for a woman as it is for a man, so if a woman can manage 49 push-ups in two minutes, more power to her. That said, everyone is aware the standards for Ranger School have been slowly inching down for years; Rangers from Vietnam had far less food and were not given a pass on account of weather, both things the school currently sees much differently. There have also been some significant changes just in the last couple years, but there’s not time to get into that here.
Integration is certainly going to cause some turmoil as is only natural. The most obvious location for concern is, of course, FTX, but remember that this is not the Army’s first foray into such things, because they already have women doing things like FTX for the Sapper Leaders Course. Of course, Ranger School’s Florida Phase is much longer than the Sapper’s, and no doubt there will be some juggling that goes on to handle certain details. But if women can handle such events as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro – and I am duly impressed by the woman who did so while wearing stilettos although it seems incredibly foolish – they’ll manage Ranger School FTX. Are women significantly different than men? Yes. Might this cause problems? Yes. But that’s the point of a one-time integrated assessment; finding out how this will or will not work.
While it is true there has been talk of changing the standards to accommodate women, it hasn’t happened yet. There is a 50% washout rate in Ranger School as of today, and those numbers will undoubtedly be affected with the inclusion of women. It seems likely the numbers of women going into Ranger School will be relatively low and probably similar to those going into Sapper’s, meaning under 10-12 per class.
Consider the words of Master Sergeant Jeremiah Gan, chief instructor at Sapper school: “As long as there is not favoritism given to gender, it will work.” Gan’s logic seems sound – if it is really possible for anyone to wholly ignore gender. Gan added, “Any woman who tabs in Sapper school can tab in Ranger school,” logic which, to me, doesn’t follow quite as smoothly.
And then we have the Navy SEALs Admiral Bill McRaven, who told media last winter that he supports the idea of women in BUD/S. McRaven made it clear he feels women in BUD/S should absolutely be required to adhere to the same stringent requirements as the men and added that he believes there are some women out there who “will do a phenomenal job.” The SEALs have until 2016 to either come up with a way to integrate BUD/S or apply for an exception.
The final word on women in Ranger School is this: they won’t be Regiment. Women who do successfully complete Ranger School and receive their tab will not actually be getting into the 75th, which is an important distinction to make. That’s not to say that couldn’t happen down the road, but it is not happening today. There is, after all, a difference between the tab and the scroll, and we would all be wise to keep that in mind.
What do you think?
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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