Bolstering case for women Rangers, one more passes to final phase

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bolstering case for women Rangers, one more passes to final phase.

The woman, a major and the mother of two, will now move on to the swamp phase of Ranger School. Last week, Kristin Griest and Shaye Haver became the first two women to graduate from the prestigious Army Ranger School, a program designed to train Army personnel for combat, making them some of the most elite and well trained fighters in the world.

Army’s Ranger School has advanced to its third and final phase, Army officials said Friday, leaving open the possibility that the school could graduate a third woman from the first class to ever include women. This program has traditionally been open only to men, but these two women have helped further the Pentagon’s efforts to restructure and examine many military jobs to equalize gender standards. I am a graduate of the Ranger School, having earned my tab in 1971, admittedly a time far removed from today’s world, but the Ranger School I attended then is not so much different from now.

Shaye Haver made history by earning their black-and-gold Ranger tabs, after nine grueling weeks of rappelling down mountains, patrolling through swamps and training for combat. But despite their triumph, neither can actually serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment, one of the Army’s special operations units, because it is a male-only bastion still closed to them. Under current law, the Pentagon has until the end of the fiscal year, September 30, to develop gender neutral rules for all remaining jobs closed to women. The phase consists of two jumps for airborne qualified personnel; four days of waterborne operations; small boat movements and stream crossings; a 10 day field training exercise with student led patrols. During more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, women have fired rifles, lobbed grenades, faced improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers, and fought beside their male colleagues.

The Army opened it for the first time in April to 20 women as it carries out research required by the Pentagon’s landmark 2013 decision to open all jobs in the military to female service members. Once these arrangements were in place and 19 of the 20 women arrived, there were multiple failures in passing course requirements that led to an attrition rate of 90 percent, and the women who graduated from the 62-day program had recycled through several phases and took an additional 67 days to finish. As some have pointed out, there are some countries where women have been allowed in combat positions for a long time, and the US military standards were not changed for, but met by Haver and Griest. The three women were all tracking to graduate together until the woman who is still in the class failed the patrol phase in the mountains late last month.

Ranger School is a 62-day course that’s described as the Army’s premiere infantry leadership course, an ordeal that pushes students to their physical and mental limits. Others counter that by noting that the rate of injury doubles for women in physically demanding positions like this, and there’s also the question of the nature of some combat jobs and what it requires of military personnel, in things such as emotional and physical thresholds.

Over the past two years, only about 40 percent of males successfully completed the course, according to leaders from the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade. An additional 45 men were “recycled” and will be given another attempt to complete the Mountain Phase, and 16 men were dropped from the course entirely. During the three-phase course, the students learn how to operate in three environments — woodlands in Fort Benning, mountainous terrain in Dahlonega, Georgia, and coastal swamp at Camp Rudder in Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Raymond Odierno said that the Army will wait until after the next co-ed class goes through Ranger School in November to make a decision about whether to permanently open the course to women. The accomplishments of Griest and Haver come at a time when all of the services are preparing to make recommendations of how to open direct-action combat jobs such as infantry to women.

While the attitude of the cadre at the school might have been to “let the chips fall where they may,” the higher commands were scrutinizing and evaluating the actions at the school. Under a 2013 directive from then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the military services must open all combat jobs to women by next year or explain why any must stay closed.

Scott Miller, the commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning, has maintained from the beginning that the standards for Ranger School have not changed. Griest, Haver, the third woman still in training and five other female soldiers completed an initial physical fitness test at Ranger School, but twice fell short of completing the first phase of training. Haver was “the only one to volunteer to take that weight,” and she “literally saved me.” Janowski said. “So, from that point, no more skepticism.” Skeptics remain, seemingly impervious to the facts. All three of the women passed the difficult physical assessment, which included a 12-mile road march with up to 50 pounds of gear and water, a second time and moved back to Camp Darby to be tested on the small-unit patrols.

In the end, I suspect, the momentum toward opening up combat positions to women will overcome any objections, no matter how reasoned; hence the reason for my skepticism. Retired Army colonel Peter Mansoor, a brigade commander in Iraq in the mid-2000s, said romances did occur with women who served in combat support and service roles. With your help, we will provide a friendly, safe, easy to use place on the Web for everyone in the area to share not only opinions but also information of community interest.

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