Are Female Soldiers Ready for Army Ranger Course?

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U.S. Army Spc. Rebecca Buck, a medic from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, provides perimeter security outside an Iraqi police station in the Tarmiya Province of Iraq, March 30, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. William Greer) (Released)

About 60 female soldiers will participate in the next grueling Army Ranger course assessment. Are women ready to participate in the all-male area of special operations forces? Is the U.S. military ready to combine male and female soldiers in infantry, armor and artillery units by 2016 as the Pentagon has ordered?

Last week the Pentagon announced that, “Secretary of the Army John McHugh approved the participation of both men and women in the spring 2015 Ranger course assessment.” Female soldiers, like their male counterparts, who graduate the Army Ranger course will receive a Ranger tab. Unlike male soldiers, however, the women who graduate will not have the opportunity to serve as part of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

In an Army statement, military leadership made it clear that female participants will get no special treatment and will face the exact same standards as their male counterparts.

“Men and women soldiers will be given the same opportunity to succeed and will be equally postured for success. All soldiers must be treated equally…female Ranger students would be graded and evaluated under the same standards as the male Ranger students.”

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First Step towards Female Soldiers in Combat Units with Men

Allowing women in the Army Ranger course is not necessarily a first step towards meeting the Pentagon’s orders for the United States military to start placing female soldiers in combat units like the infantry, armor and artillery. In fact, this first group of women taking the Ranger assessment are more of an experiment than a permanent change to the male-only policy of previous years.

Military leaders will keep a close eye on how well the women do in the Ranger course at Fort Benning, Georgia. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno addressed this while speaking to soldiers at a recent, virtual town hall.

“We’re just going to let the statistics speak for themselves as we go through this,” he said, in response to a question from a soldier. “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.”

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