By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Jan. 16, 2015) -- The Army announced Jan. 15 that female Soldiers will be allowed, for the first time, to attend the Army's Ranger Course and possibly earn the coveted Ranger tab.
According to an official Army statement, the first Ranger Course open to female Soldiers begins this spring.
"Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh approved the participation of both men and women in the spring 2015 Ranger Course assessment," said Army spokesperson Wayne Hall. "The assessment will be conducted during Ranger Course 06-15, which is scheduled to begin on April 20, 2015. The course has approximately 60 women scheduled to participate. Those who meet the standards and graduate from the course will receive a certificate and be awarded the Ranger tab."
According to Monica L. Manganaro, a spokesperson for the Maneuver Center of Excellence's Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, the 2015 "Ranger Course assessment" is a regular Ranger Course, with all the same physical requirements. The current Ranger Course completion standards, to include prerequisites, phase performance requirements and graduation standards would not change for the assessment, she said.
Manganaro said the course is being called an assessment due to the first-time participation of female Soldiers. Both male and female students will participate in the assessment.
The Army released an all Army activities message in September 2014 requesting units forward the names of female volunteers to attend the spring Ranger Course assessment. At the time, the decision to include women in a Ranger Course had not yet been made.
"The response was overwhelmingly positive," Manganaro said. "When the Army asked for women who had interest, the interest outweighed the number of slots available."
Some of the women who may attend that Ranger Course assessment began the 16-day Ranger Training Assessment Course, run by the Army's National Guard Warrior Training Center, Jan. 16. The RTAC is meant to prepare Soldiers to succeed in the Ranger Course. This is the first time an RTAC has included women. Of the 120 slots available for students in the RTAC, up to 40 are allotted for women. There are three additional RTACs scheduled before the Ranger Course Assessment begins that include female Soldiers.
With an endorsement from their unit, Soldiers who successfully complete the RTAC are eligible to attend the 62-day Ranger Course, Manganaro said. Historically, she said, approximately half of those who enter the Ranger Course will succeed in earning the Ranger tab.
Not all Soldiers who attend the Ranger Course are required to attend an RTAC, Manganaro said. But all female Soldiers who attend the Ranger Course Assessment must first attend and successfully complete an RTAC.
"The RTAC is mandatory for the women who want to go to Ranger school," Manganaro said. "It is going to re-enforce those Ranger skills, and familiarize the female Soldier with the skill sets they may not have had in other courses they have gone through."
Manganaro said the requirement to attend the RTAC will "level the playing field," in the Ranger Course, allowing women to better familiarize themselves with the skills they will need to succeed there.
"The RTAC gives them an azimuth on their skill set, on what they will need to go to Ranger school," she said.
FEMALE OBSERVERS AND ADVISORS
For the Ranger Course assessment this spring, the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade selected 31 female Soldiers to serve as observers and advisors. Of those, there are 11 officers and 20 non-commissioned officers.
The observer/advisors will be integrated into the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade staff during the Ranger Course assessment, for the purpose of assisting with the execution of the assessment, and to help capture "lessons learned" from both men and women training together.
The female observer/advisors underwent a weeklong evaluation in November 2014, before being selected to move on to a modified Ranger Instructor training program, meant to prepare them to work in assigned areas during the Ranger Course assessment. Observer/advisors will also observe two cycles of an all-male Ranger Course as part of their preparation for the April 2015 Ranger Course assessment.
Manganaro said that female Soldiers who successfully complete the April Ranger Course assessment will earn a certificate of completion for the course, and will have earned the privilege of wearing the Ranger tab on their uniform. However, she said, those Soldiers will not get the Ranger skill identifier, nor will they be able to transition to an MOS that requires the Ranger skill identifier, as those MOSs are not yet open to women.
The move to assess female Soldier performance in Ranger Course is part of an ongoing Army effort called "Soldier 2020." That effort is meant to allow the Army's best-qualified Soldiers the opportunity to serve in any position where they are capable of performing to standard.
"In 2011, the Army began assessing barriers to service for women," said Col. Linda K. Sheimo, chief, Command Policy Division at Army G-1. "In 2012 we opened approximately 14,000 positions that were closed due to the removal of the collocation rule which includes opening six MOSs and executing the exception to policy program in the maneuver battalion headquarters of maneuver battalions in nine BCTs. Since 2012, approximately 55,000 positions have been opened. Now, we continue our efforts with the assessment of women attending the Ranger Course this spring. We'll use the data and lessons learned from this pilot to inform our way ahead in a deliberate, measured and responsible manner. We're upholding standards and ensuring every Soldier has the opportunity maximize their potential."