What an incredible achievement! Against the backdrop of some of the anti-woman rhetoric of the campaign trail, two women are making history. This is a moment to be celebrated and cheered (albeit not completely).
Today, First Lt. Kristen Griest, a military police officer who served in Afghanistan and First Lt. Shaye Haver, an Apache helicopter pilot, will have achieved what no other woman has ever achieved. They will graduate from the US Army Ranger school, the special forces school, that is as tough as it can be. Rangers are the most hard-core, bad-ass soldiers in the world (the Seals are sailors). And our sisters have joined the ranks.
In the history of the US Army Rangers, created in the mid-1700's and active until the Civil War and then recommissioned during WWII, there have never been any women. Until Now. Nineteen women and 381 men soldiers started the training which is comprised of three rigorous courses. By the time the course was completed, Griest and Haver joined ninety-four men as graduates of the program. The unforgiving Ranger course has a 42% graduation rate. http://www.politico.com/story/2015/08/women-to-graduate-ranger-school-2015-121477.html
Of course there are comments about whether women belong in the Rangers or in combat, and if the Army is making it easier for women to pass. Not a chance!
Before the women were allowed to participate in the Ranger course, they had to go through a rigorous and mandatory two-week Ranger Training Assessment Course (RTAC). According to the US Army, RTAC consists of two phases which are similar to what a candidate will find at the Ranger school. The first phase assesses a Soldier's physical and mental abilities. During this phase, a student conducts a PT test, a swim test, land navigation, and a 6-mile foot march. The second phase of RTAC is all about field training and is designed to assess and train Soldiers on troop leading procedures and patrolling.
Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning said that if the women did "not meet the prerequisites at RTAC" he would not recommend that they not move forward. http://www.army.mil/article/142628/Soldiers_prepare_for_gender_integrated_Ranger_Course/?from=RSSWell, they met the prerequisites and forward they moved.
The downside to all of this hard-work - (and for you naysayers, call me when you complete the course!) is that even though these women busted butt and graduated, they will not be invited to join the Ranger Regiment until the Pentagon decides where in combat women will be allowed to serve. It's like "Congratulations you passed, too bad for you!" (On a positive note, the Navy has announced that they are open to women in the 6 month SEAL course, which has not, however, been approved).
What a great legacy for all women and men to see these women achieve such greatness. They truly epitomizes the Army slogan "Be All That You Can Be".
Many of us remember when women were first allowed at the military academies and the sexual assaults and extreme hazing that occurred. Both of these amazing women came from West Point. They carry a real legacy on their shoulders.
As the child of a WWII Army nurse, I want to pat the military on the back and cheer them on for realizing the value of women in service. But in spite of our celebrating and cheering, we must never forget the horrendous sexual violence record of the US military.
PS to the Pentagon - Get your act together. Stop the sexual violence. And, stop dragging your boots and let these women serve in the capacity they have earned.