Three women advance in Ranger School

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Three women advanced to the next phase of Ranger School in the north Georgia mountains over the weekend, according to the Army.  

The three women who successfully completed the patrol phase will now join 158 of 362 men who started the course on June 21. 

The mountain phase will last almost three weeks, with those who pass heading to the last phase, in the Florida swamps.  

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The three women are part of a group of 19 who first started the course on April 19, in a bid to become the first females to wear the elite Ranger tab.

The three women completed the patrol phase last week, after previously failing it twice and restarting the course from Day 1 the second time. Two men were also given the same opportunity, but declined. 

Approximately 34 percent of all Ranger students redo at least one phase of the four-part training course, the Army said. 

In addition, only 42 percent of volunteers pass Ranger School, but the odds increase every time a phase is successfully completed. 

Ranger School is considered the Army's most physically and mentally challenging leadership training course. 

Only about three percent of all Army soldiers earn the tab.

Retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis L. Smith, who served with the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning in 2012, told the Ledger-Enquirer that the mountain phase is the toughest part of the course.

He said after the mountain phase, the success rate is "90 percent or more." 

The Army first began allowing women to attend Ranger School in April, on an experimental basis. Women who pass the course will earn the coveted Ranger tab but will not go on to become Rangers. 

The test is part of an Army study on how to integrate women into previously closed combat jobs, including infantry and special operations. 

The military services are due to open all combat jobs to women by January, or submit to the Defense secretary reasons why some jobs should remain restricted. 

The order was given in 2012 by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. 

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said in May the Army is looking at allowing female soldiers to attend "a couple more" classes of Ranger School, the Ledger-Enquirer said.