Army opens Ranger School to women

Army opens Ranger School to women
© Getty Images

The Army announced Wednesday it is officially opening future Ranger School classes to all qualified personnel, regardless of gender.  

"We must ensure that this training opportunity is available to all soldiers who 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," Secretary of the Army John McHugh said in an Army statement. 

But while the school is now open to women, the Army was silent on whether women could actually serve in Ranger units, only saying women could serve in a "variety of units." 

ADVERTISEMENT

"Students who meet the standards of the course earn the Ranger Tab and serve in a variety of units across the Army," the statement said. 

However, allowing women to take Ranger School — the Army's premier small unit tactics and leadership school — is a step closer to women serving in the elite units. 

The military services are preparing to open all combat jobs to women by January, or else submit to the defense secretary requests for exceptions. 

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday the deadline for the services was the end of the year and that he would make a decision on whether to approve those exceptions "early next year." 

"But the principle's clear, which is we want to draw from the largest population of qualified people who can meet the standards," he said.

The announcement comes after Army 1st Lts. Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver last month became the first two women to graduate the school. The Army opened the school to women on an experimental basis earlier this year to help inform future decisions on opening combat jobs closed to women. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The two graduates were out of 19 women who volunteered for the course. Another woman is making her way through the course, and another class is expected in November. 

Only 42 percent of volunteers pass Ranger School, considered the Army's most physically and mentally challenging leadership training course. 

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

Carter said he personally called and congratulated the two women. 

"Where I come from is that what matters most is who is qualified and can meet the standards, the rigorous standards of service," he said. "That's what matters and I want to have the widest possible pool of people from which we can draw the force of the future, and that includes half of our population, which is women." 

"[I'm] asking our new Army chief and our new Marine Corps commandant to think hard about that," he added. 

"The Army's number one priority is combat readiness and leader development is a function of combat readiness," said Chief of Staff of Army Gen. Mark A. Milley.

"Giving every qualified soldier the opportunity to attend the Ranger Course, the Army's premier small unit leadership school, ensures we are maintaining our combat readiness today, tomorrow and for future generations," he said.

The Army said all prerequisites for students attending the Ranger Course remain in effect, to include standards of medical fitness prescribed in Army Regulation 40-501, Chapters 2, 5 and 8.