Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno on Wednesday endorsed the idea of women attending the Army's Ranger School if they can meet the standards but stopped short of saying whether they will be allowed to become Rangers when the Pentagon opens as many combat positions as it can to women by the end of the year.
The Army opened the elite training school to women on an experimental basis earlier this year. More than 20 women volunteered, and two of them are close to making it through.
They would become the first two women to graduate from the school and earn the coveted Ranger tab. Only 42 percent of all soldiers pass the school, and only about three percent earn the tab.
The Pentagon has ordered the military services to open all jobs and schools to women by January, unless they are granted exceptions for good reasons approved by the Defense secretary.
During a Pentagon briefing, Odierno praised the two women, saying they "are another example of, if they can meet the standard, they should be able to go, and they should be able to earn their Ranger tab."
"And that's how we want to operate as we move forward," he said. "If you meet the standards that we've established, then you should be able to perform in that [military occupational specialty]. And I think that's where we're headed."
However, he added, "We've not made any final decisions on infantry or armor yet, but I think those are coming very shortly."
Odierno, who is retiring this month after a 39-year military career, said the Army will probably run another Ranger course in November that will be open to women.
"And then we'll make a decision after that on whether we make it ... permanently open to women," he said.