women, army, equal opportunity, Ranger School, female soldiers, equal abilities

Two women have made history by completing the course at the US Army’s infamous Ranger School.  Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver successfully finished the grueling 62 day endurance test, and graduated in August. The course was opened up to women for the first time in April this year as an experiment, and will now be open to female soldiers on a permanent basis. The move pushes the army ever closer to lifting more bans on women in front-line combat positions. The army and other services must decide by the end of 2015 whether they will continue lifting these bans, and in compliance with the review process established in 2013, must provide suitable justification if bans are kept in place.

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The course included 19 women and 381 men, and took place at the Ranger School base in Fort Banning, Georgia. Of this, 2 women and 94 men made it through. The army released a description of the challenges, “A physical fitness test consisting of 49 push-ups, 59 sit-ups, a five-mile run in 40 minutes, and six chin-ups; a swim test; a land navigation test; a 12-mile foot march in three hours; several obstacle courses; four days of military mountaineering; three parachute jumps; four air assaults on helicopters; multiple rubber boat movements; and 27 days of mock combat patrols.”

However, although Griest and Haver have completed the Ranger Course, they are still prohibited from entering the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, a combat-oriented Special Operations Force. This group still remains off-limits to women, although completing the Ranger course will open up other infantry jobs for its female graduates. Given the groundswell towards allowing women into more combat jobs, and the fact that Ranger School is now open to women full time, it shouldn’t be long before the Ranger Regiment follows suit.

Janine Davidson, a former senior Pentagon official in the Obama administration stated that perceptions about “whether or not women are capable—physically, mentally or otherwise—those are now broken down…What’s left here now would be the barriers about our social perceptions.” Davidson was the first female pilot to fly the C-130 in the Air Force.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh has echoed Davidson’s sentiments. “This course has proven that every soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential,” he said in a statement. “We owe soldiers the opportunity to serve successfully in any position where they are qualified and capable, and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best soldiers to meet our nation’s needs.”

Of course, the prospect of increasing the amount of female combatants has faced opposition from some veterans and active-duty troops. To be honest, I totally get this opposition. Although women have demonstrated time and time again that mentally they are at no disadvantage in any field, the fact remains that women are not biologically constituted to be as physically able as men. As such, in order to reach the physical qualifications required for combat posts (which the Ranger School insisted they did not relax), they will need to put in five times the effort, and are therefore at greater risk of injury. Reservations about their ability to maintain these standards are a no-brainer.

However, perhaps if more and more women were given the chance, we would see a greater number of female soldiers able to reach these standards. Considering the fact that these women are willing to put themlsevles through such a great physical effort, and are obviously aware of what it may cost them, then I’d say you’ve got some pretty damn tough and committed soldiers right there. If two have proved they can make it, then why not more?

Image via Kdhnews.com