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Co-ed Ranger School: My thoughts

May 23, 2012 | Captain Hannah He

Just a few days ago marked the 69th anniversary of women serving in the US Army. About the same time, the Army Chief of Staff General Odierno announced that a plan is in place to permit females to attend Ranger school.

The opinion storm that followed that announcement kind of depressed me. There are accusations that Ranger School in general is going to be "feminized", as in, made easier, either for the females or for everyone. Some say that Ranger School's mission of creating combat leaders will be compromised if they have to admit women who aren't in the Infantry. Others are just upset that the tradition of having only male Rangers will fade away.

In my opinion, the Army needs to move forward and needs to take a stronger stance on telling all these people that they can have their opinion, but it's messed up and unfair. Will females make Ranger School easier? I don't know about easier, but Ranger School adjusts it's course regularly to address current conflicts. And how do you explain the progression in the passing rate moving from below to 40% prior to 1980, to the current avergae of about 50%? Maybe Ranger School already is easier.

If the purpose of going through Ranger School is to create better small-unit leaders in combat, with the definition of combat changing all the time and the front lines virtually non-existent, shouldn't this opportunity be open to everyone, not just Infantry officers? In 2005 Ranger School was opened to every MOS not affected by the combat exclusion policy. That means there are already Signal and Quartermaster officers with a Ranger tab. Once the combat exclusion policy is lifted from females, permitting them to be in every combat unit if not combat MOSs, there is no reason to also exclude them from Ranger School.

Tradition is a great thing, and part of the reason I love being in the Army. But progress and the current mission need to be more important than keeping tradition. This was another argument that was used when Congress first considered admitting women to the service academies. Old Grads said that West Point was for creating combat leaders, but 15% of West Point grads had never served in the combat arms. They said the presence of females would change the dynamic, and maybe it has, but I can't imagine that a shifting dynamic away from an all-male environment is all that bad, but rather, prepares men to work with women on a regular basis, which a majority do in the Army. When I meet guys that are generally crude and disrespectful to women, they say things like, "sorry, I'm not used to having a female around." Well, in that case, maybe having a female around would make them a better person.

So, in my opinion, it's time to let women have the opportunity to succeed at Ranger School. I don't support any lowering of standards or extra special treatment, but I hope everything is fair. And that everyone who feels that training women to be a combat leader is the end of the world wakes up and realizes that maybe combat is a little different than they think.


  • MAJ Steve Sams
    6/5/2012 3:01 PM
    Should women be allowed to attend Army Ranger School? This question has raised several issues and concerns that are having a dramatic affect within the combat arms community. One primary concern is "can women pass under the current standards of the course"? The other is the potential for injury due to the physical demands that occur during training.

    Currently the initial standards to enter the Ranger Course are the following: 49 push-ups, 59 sit-ups, an individual 5-mile release run event finished in 40 minutes or less, 6 chin-ups, and a 12 mile forced road march. The purpose of these standards is to determine if the student is able to endure the rigors of ranger training. My concern is that the standards must be the same for both genders to ensure long term success in the course. A reduction in preliminary standards could cause enduring injures for female trainees.

    The physiological stress placed on ranger students have adverse affects on the lower back, knees, feet, and hip-flexor muscles. The reason for these stressors are due to prolonged periods of time where trainees are required to carry a considerable amount of weight while traversing difficult terrain, especially during the mountain phase of training. An additional concern is that the physical stress place on the female student could result in significant damage to the femoral hip region. This injury is very serious and could be career ending.

    It is my opinion that the decision has already been made to allow females to attend ranger school. Therefore, I hope that all provisions have been made to select only the best candidates to attend this training.

    This following information does not reflect the views of the United States government and U.S. military. They are opinions and are personal in nature.

    MAJ Steve Sams
    ILE Class 02-012
    Fort Gordon, GA
  • majrod
    6/13/2012 5:08 AM
    The Army's mission isn't "progress" or preserving tradition. It's to win our wars. Ranger school has always been the Army's premier leadership course. Officers from other branches have attended but are a rarity in comparison to the primary atendees, Infantry.

    The greatest issue will be one of standards. I have no problem if a women can meet the same standards as the men. The problem is that in our history at no time have women been held to the same standard as men. This becomes especially problematic at a tactical small unit courses where the speed of the unit is dictated by the slowest person and everyone is expected to carry an equal load.

    I suspect PT standards will be gender normed and other requirements will be relaxed or eliminated. Standards HAVE changed over the years. 20yrs ago the PT standard was 52 pushups not 49. That's a minor change. The women's standard for pushups at the 17-21 60% standard is 25. That's a DRASTIC difference.
  • dlowe21589
    8/20/2012 12:18 PM

    Class 7-73
    you are nutz...get in a hole..with a belly ache..not me. I have been in all with...
    too include way
  • RgrD
    1/18/2014 12:56 AM
    "I don't support any lowering of standards or extra special treatment, but I hope everything is fair."

    That's the problem... The standards will have to be changed. They'll have to be lowered. If you haven't been through school there's no way for you to understand this, but as it stands right now it would break even the strongest females. Going to school in great shape counts for nothing 3 or 4 months later (once you've recycled) when your body is a shell of its former self. Being able to do a 12 mile march in under 3 hours with 45-55 lbs at your unit counts for nothing when you're marching down a sandy trail in Florida at 0200 with 110 lbs more than your bodyweight (ruck, kit, water, ach, weapon, squad equipment).

    I'm not against women going to school if I could be assured the standards wouldn't change, but due to the politicized nature of this issue I don't see that happening. RTB would get bad press if the first 4 women to go all failed. They're going to be watched, mentored, coddled, protected... All in the name of making sure they're treated fairly, when in reality just making the RI's job harder.

    How about this for a compromise: send them through RTAC first. If they can make it through RTAC and go straight into school and pass RAP week, maybe they'd have a shot at graduating.

    Just please, for the love of God, don't lower the Ranger standard any more than it already has (due to safety concerns... Another long story).

    As to the oft-quoted 50% graduation rate that everyone talks about... It varies greatly by class. Apparently spring classes have the highest pass rates. My class (06OCT-06DEC13) started with 296 and 104 graduated, but of those 104 only 36 started in October.

    And a word on winter classes- God help us when EO complaints surface because everyone wants to cuddle with the female Ranger student. Or when people are caught staring at the slit trench. What a nightmare.

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