Friday, August 21, 2015

America's New Real Action Heroes - Two soldiers become first female Rangers


Two Soldiers Become First Female Army Rangers

August 20, 2015

In January, the United States Army announced that 60 women were selected to be in a pilot program for the Army Rangers training program. The Rangers are an elite unit called into the height of war via land, sea or air to conduct lethal and complex joint special combat missions. Like all elite combat units, Rangers are only men. The pilot program is part of an ongoing effort by the military to integrate women into positions that have traditionally done so.

The Army wanted to learn if it was even possible to integrate, as the program is notoriously difficult to get through. On average, only 45 percent of Ranger School students graduate. Sixty percent of all failures happen during the first four days, with many failing the physical fitness test the first day. The focus was not about how many of the female soldiers would make it through, but making sure the standards are uniform.

This week the Army announced that not only were they able to maintain the high standards, but two women will graduate this week. Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver have become the first women Army Rangers. The West Point graduates’ march into the history books has been a long and arduous journey.

On April 20, 381 men and 19 women (one soldier dropped out before starting) began the training in Fort Benning, Georgia. The Ranger Course is a “62-day course on leadership and small unit tactics, which pushes Ranger students to their mental and physical limits by forcing them to operate on minimal food and sleep. Approximately 34 percent of students who enter Ranger School recycle at least one phase of the course, adding to the student’s physical and mental fatigue.” Soldiers are allowed to recycle when they have done well in other areas but fall short in areas where improvement can be made.

Eight of the women successfully finished the Ranger Assessment Phase (RAP). The RAP phase consists of physical fitness testing, 12-mile foot march in three hours with a heavy load and mock patrols, among other tasks. All of the eight women did a recycle for patrolling. In the end, five women were dropped from the program and three women moved on to the next phase after a second, one day recycle.

The three soldiers joined 158 of their male soldiers in the second Mountain Phase. Soldiers train in military mountaineering, which included a nearly two mile march up a steep mountain and combat patrols. Six men were dropped from the training and one woman joined 60 men in a recycle phase that will begin at the end of this month.

The remaining soldiers entered into the third and final phase. The 17 day Swamp Phase included airborne jumps, four days of waterborne exercises and leading patrols in the swampy waters off the coast of Florida. On Friday, August 22, 96 soldiers will graduate in a ceremony at Fort Benning. 1st Lt. Shaye Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest will be among them.

Griest and Haver’s journey took four months since they and a few of their fellow male soldiers repeated phases. The third woman is repeating the final phase of the training and if successful will graduate in September. Despite their well deserved honor, the twenty-something soldiers will not be joining their fellow soldiers in the Ranger unit.

The Pentagon is still assessing which units in all branches will be opened to women. The Defense Secretary will be making final decisions in January of next year.

Nevertheless, 1st Lt. Haver and Capt. Griest will wear the coveted black and gold Ranger Tab to show that they are among the elite group of leaders ready to defend our nation in the most dangerous situations.

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