Female Soldiers Are Headed To The US Army's Ranger School In April

ranger school females

Photo Credit: US Army

The Army in April will begin sending hand-picked female soldiers through its physically demanding Ranger school, where some may earn the Ranger tab as part of an overall military assessment of the fitness of women for the combat arms.

The Army announced plans for the pilot program last September, when it began seeking volunteers.

About 60 female soldiers will take part alongside male soldiers in the program that begins April 20 – Ranger Course 06-15, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Benjamin Garrett said in a statement.

“Those who meet the standards and graduate from the course will receive a certificate and be awarded the Ranger tab,” he said.

About half the volunteers – 20 noncommissioned officers and 11 officers – will serve as observers and advisors. Females who successfully complete the course will not be awarded associated Ranger skill identifiers because the law does not currently allow it. The additional skill identifier is added to a soldier’s military occupational specialty.

“The decision to change that or not … will be made by the Secretary of Defense no later than Jan. 1, 2016 when he determines if women will be permitted to become infantry soldiers and serve in other closed military occupational specialties,” the Army said in September.

The historic trial pilot program and assessment comes amid increasing demand in recent years to open up to women all military specialties, including infantry. Army leadership is open to the idea, but insists there will be no lowering of standards.

“We’re just going to let the statistics speak for themselves as we go through this,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said during a virtual town hall meeting with soldiers earlier this month.  “The main thing I’m focused on is the standards remain the same. In order to earn that tab, you have to do all the things necessary to earn that tab. We want to try a pilot to let women have the opportunity to do that.”

The training is physically grueling, with soldiers required to pass a fitness test that includes 49 push-ups within 2 minutes, 59 sit-ups, a 5 mile run within 40 minutes and six chin-ups. Additionally, would-be Rangers must be able to remove their gear in water and then swim 15 meters in their uniform and boots.

Army statistics show that only about 45 percent of those attending Ranger school graduate, and about 60 percent of those who wash out do so in the first four days.

How female students will fare remains to be seen, but past studies have indicated they are likely more often to sustain injuries associated with combat training and combat than their male counterparts.

The problem is simply body size and mechanics, according to Department of Veterans Affairs’ doctors who have dealt with and studied injuries, including the kind most often sustained by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan – musculoskeletal.

These are incurred simply by carrying heavy loads during long patrols over rugged country, while getting down from a vehicle or simply falling.

“I don’t think there is a way now to say exactly what the experience will be, but I expect as more and more women go into these physically demanding roles, we may see an increase in [these] injuries,” Dr. Sally Haskell, deputy chief consultant for women’s health services and director of comprehensive women’s health at the Veterans Affairs Department told Military.com a year ago.

The VA’s national director of physical medicine and rehabilitation said in April 2013 that he “was certain the majority of women doing this [combat arms specialty] won’t be physically able to do it as long as the men. It’s a matter of body size and body mechanics.”

One study found that between 2004 and 2007 about a third of medical evacuations from the Iraq and Afghan theaters were due to musculoskeletal, connective tissue and spinal injuries, Dr. David Cifu told Military.com.

Troops may carry 80 pounds or more of gear in theater. Cifu said women carrying the same loads as men will be more at risk of these kinds of injuries.

The pilot Ranger School program has been made open to enlisted women from grades E-4 up to Warrant Officer 02. Additionally, the Army drew on female volunteers in grades E-6 to E-8, Warrant Officer 2 and 3, and first lieutenant through major to serve as observers and advisors.

All the volunteers will be required to take the Army National Guard Ranger Training and Assessment Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, before the assessment course, the Army said when it announced the program in September.

The course observers will be required to pass a fitness test, land navigation, a combat water survival assessment, an operations order test, 12-mile road march with 35-pound rucksack, and review boards.  As observers they must be able to keep up to the Ranger School students and instructors, the announcement said.

— Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com

More from Military.com:

This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

TOP ARTICLES
This vehicle is bristling with weapons to shoot down Kim Jong-un's aerial menace

Whether the plane is carrying bombs, rockets, missiles, or some of Kim Jong-un's goons, the Hybrid BIHO will make sure they never get through.

That time two luxurious ocean liners fought an intense old-time naval battle

The German ship Cap Trafalgar disguised itself as the HMS Carmania to lure and destroy British merchant ships. Its first victim was the real HMS Carmania.

This is the dummy's guide to the rail gun

Designed to double the muzzle velocity of all naval artillery weapons to hypersonic speeds up to Mach 6, the Navy's rail gun system uses advanced technology that is a pain in the butt to understand

This is what Sikorsky thinks should replace the Blackhawk

The Defiant is fast, it can carry a lot of troops, and it's armed to the teeth.

How one vet learned to actually appreciate his deployment to Iraq

This veteran believes God used the Iraq war to fulfill Biblical prophesies, and he's written a four part series to explain it.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan

Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter was awarded the Air Force Cross Oct. 17 for actions during an eight-hour firefight in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan.

This is what Iran will do if the US pulls out of the nuke deal

President Trump is threatening to back out of the Iran nuclear deal — in direct opposition of the other five countries involved. Here is what Iran thinks.

5 military movies you should look out for in 2018

These are some of the handful of military-related movies hitting the screens next year that look like they could be worth the price of admission.

Why Hollywood prescribes pot to its veteran characters with PTS

A new Netflix comedy takes a lighthearted look at the growing use of medical marijuana to treat veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress.

Does this picture show the US covertly moving SEALs into Korea?

The USS Michigan stopped in Busan for a "routine port visit," but pictures of the event suggest a more clandestine purpose that may involve US Navy SEALs.