(Curtesy of the ledger-enquirer; by CHUCK WILLIAMS, May 8, 2015)
Ranger students tackle the Darby Queen obstacle course at Camp Darby, Sunday April 26, 2015. The Army's Ranger School, which has historically been open to males only allowed females to qualify for the Army's most elite training course as part of the military's gender integration assessment. At the beginning of Ranger School, 19 woman joined the course, and 8 females continued beyond Ranger Assessment Phase (RAP) Week.
The U.S. Army Ranger School class that started nearly three weeks ago with 19 women will move to the next phase in the North Georgia mountains without any females, the Army announced Friday.
The eight women who survived the first week of physical assessment did not make the cut when they were evaluated for their performance during the Camp Darby phase of the demanding 62-day, four-phase course that has never been open to women.
The eight women and 101 men who did not make the cut in the Camp Darby phase will be picked up by the next class on Thursday and redo the nearly two weeks of training, according to an Army news release.
“I had the opportunity to visit the Ranger students yesterday and was impressed that whether going forward to the mountains or recycling the Darby phase they were motivated to continue training and focused on successfully completing the Ranger course,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning.
“They’re a strong group of soldiers, who are working their way through the U.S. Army’s most physically and mentally demanding course.”
This is the first time in its more than six-decade history that elite Ranger training has been open to women. There are currently no plans to open up other Ranger courses to women, but those who recycle will be allowed to complete the process just as any male soldier would.
A class of 399 soldiers started the course April 19. More than half the initial class was dropped in the first week. When the class moved to the Camp Darby phase after the physical assessment, 71 students who had been recycled from previous classes were added, according to the Army.
Of those 263 who started the current Darby phase, 115 will move to the mountains — the third of four phases. The remainder have either been recycled or dropped.
Each student has up to three recycle opportunities to try to complete the leadership course. Less than 30 percent of all Rangers go straight through the course without recycling.
Those who are recycled and must repeat a phase face a more difficult challenge than those who go straight through the course and graduate, said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis L. Smith, who owns Uncommon Athlete Inc., a downtown Columbus workout and training facility. In Smith’s final Army assignment three years ago, he was the command sergeant major for the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade.
“In my opinion, physically and mentally they have made life harder,” Smith said Friday. “But I am a glass half full kind of guy. They can use this to their advantage. They know what is coming next.”
Once the initial Ranger Assessment Phase was complete, the soldiers were put into small units and had to work as a team to plan and execute military missions. The soldiers in the Camp Darby phase were scored by Ranger instructors on their patrol leadership skills, spot checks on their ability to do certain tasks and peer evaluations.
They did these assignments with a lack of food and sleep to create stressful situations that simulate combat.
The 109 students who recycled Friday will stay in the school and work around Camp Rogers and Camp Darby as they wait for the next class to roll through.
“They are not going anywhere; they are there,” Smith said. “The good news for them is they get three meals a day and fairly good sleep. They will be doing details that need to be done. They could be cutting grass or mending fences. They will also be going to some classes.”
The training for the 115 who passed Friday now moves to Camp Merrill near Dahlonega, Ga., where the Ranger candidates will continue the small-unit training they started a couple of weeks ago at Camp Darby on the eastern edge of Fort Benning.
Once the mountain phase is completed, the training moves to Camp Rudder in the swamps of the Florida panhandle near Destin. This class is scheduled to graduate at Fort Benning on June 19.
The standards for the course have not been altered, according to Army officials.
This Ranger Course class is part of an Army-wide evaluation of women’s roles in the military branch.
All of the women who started this course had successfully completed a two-week Ranger Assessment Training Course at the Warrior Training Center on Fort Benning.
The training course mirrors the first couple of weeks of Ranger School with the physical fitness test, land navigation and marching. There were 113 women who went through the pre-Ranger course and 20 were slotted for the class that started April 19. When it came time to report, 19 of the 20 women reported. Three of the 19 failed the initial physical assessment. Eight more were dropped after the first week, leaving the eight who were recycled Friday.
The names of the female soldiers in this class have not been released by the Army. Some of the Army leadership have expressed concerns about the pressure they could face by being identified.
Only about 3 percent of Army soldiers have earned the Ranger tab.