Three Women Advance to Next Phase of Army Ranger School

The last of the 19 women who began the first gender-integrated course for the Army’s elite Rangers will move on to the mountain stage.

A U.S. Army Ranger instructor explains the technical instructions of rappelling from the 50-foot rock to his left in Dahlonega, Ga., April 13, 2009. It is one of three phases of training.
National Journal
Molly O'Toole, Defense One
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Molly O'Toole, Defense One
July 13, 2015, 7:10 a.m.

Three wo­men will join 158 men for in­tens­ive Ranger train­ing in the moun­tains of Geor­gia next month, mak­ing them the first to qual­i­fy for the second phase of one of the mil­it­ary’s toughest spe­cial-op­er­a­tions courses, Army of­fi­cials said Fri­day. The an­nounce­ment came just hours after De­fense Sec­ret­ary Ashton Carter signaled his sup­port for wo­men to serve in elite com­bat jobs.

The 161 stu­dents began the first por­tion of Ranger School, called the Darby phase, on June 21 at Fort Ben­ning, along with 201 oth­ers who did not suc­cess­fully com­plete the course. They won’t get much of a breath­er to cel­eb­rate: they’ll enter the moun­tain phase on Monday. Then, after eight days of train­ing in mil­it­ary moun­tain­eer­ing and tech­niques and 10 days of lead­ing patrols in Geor­gia’s Chat­ta­hoo­chee Na­tion­al Forest, they’ll be as­sessed on their per­form­ance. Suc­cess means ad­van­cing again, to the Flor­ida phase that starts Aug. 1.

The 161 stu­dents began the first por­tion of Ranger School, called the Darby phase, on June 21 at Fort Ben­ning, along with 201 oth­ers who did not suc­cess­fully com­plete the course. They won’t get much of a breath­er to cel­eb­rate: They’ll enter the moun­tain phase on Monday.

Then, after eight days of train­ing in mil­it­ary moun­tain­eer­ing and tech­niques and 10 days of lead­ing patrols in Geor­gia’s Chat­ta­hoo­chee Na­tion­al Forest, they’ll be as­sessed on their per­form­ance. Suc­cess means ad­van­cing again, to the Flor­ida phase that starts Au­gust 1.

“The stu­dents of this class, just as all oth­er Ranger classes, have shown strength and de­term­in­a­tion to per­severe and com­plete the first phase of this rig­or­ous course in the heat of the Geor­gia sum­mer,” said Col. Dav­id Five­coat, who leads the Air­borne and Ranger Train­ing Bri­gade. “I’m con­fid­ent that they are trained and ready.”

Most of the 201 dropped from the course struggled to lead patrols, Army of­fi­cials said, a chal­lenge that has per­sisted throughout the last sev­er­al classes. That was the reas­on giv­en for drop­ping sev­er­al of the 19 wo­men who began the first gender-in­teg­rated Ranger course on April 2.

Of that ini­tial group of wo­men, eight had done well enough in the first phase to try again. The second time through, five were dropped, but three ex­celled at enough as­pects of the course to earn the right to start the whole thing over. These three at last cleared the ma­jor hurdle of the Darby phase on Fri­day.

More wo­men will likely fol­low, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odi­erno said at the end of May. The mixed-gender course was ini­tially in­ten­ded as a one­time test case as part of a mil­it­ary-wide as­sess­ment of the bar­ri­ers that re­main to full gender-in­teg­ra­tion across the branches. Odi­erno told re­port­ers, “We’ll prob­ably run a couple more pi­lots. It’s been a real suc­cess for us, and we’ll see how it goes from there.”

All mil­it­ary oc­cu­pa­tions will be opened to wo­men by next Janu­ary un­less a ser­vice re­quests and is gran­ted an ex­emp­tion for a par­tic­u­lar set of jobs—a de­cision that Mar­ine Corps Com­mand­ant Joseph Dun­ford may have to face twice, as both the cur­rent com­mand­ant and also Pres­id­ent Obama’s nom­in­ee for Joint Chiefs chair­man, ac­cord­ing to The Mar­ine Corps Times. Dun­ford re­ceived a re­l­at­ively easy hear­ing be­fore the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee on Fri­day, and Com­mit­tee Chair­man John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., told Politico the full Sen­ate could con­firm him as early as next week.

Earli­er Fri­day, Sec­ret­ary Carter talked about open­ing to wo­men the re­mainder of the mil­it­ary’s oc­cu­pa­tion­al spe­cial­ties. “I’m really com­mit­ted to see­ing this through,” he told troops at Fort Bragg, North Car­o­lina. “Where I can have an­oth­er half of our pop­u­la­tion be in that re­cruit­ing and re­ten­tion pool, that’s a pretty good deal for the de­part­ment,” he said. “It’s like doub­ling the pop­u­la­tion of the coun­try.”

Carter said he ex­pects to “close this chapter” of look­ing at which jobs should ex­clude wo­men “by year-end or so.”

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