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Ranger School hangs out 'all Soldiers welcome' sign

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Sept. 02, 2015) -- From now on, the Army's Ranger School will be open to any female Soldiers who meet the criteria.

That's the latest from the Army, as spelled out in a Sept. 2 "All Army Activities" message known as an ALARACT.

"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," Army Secretary John M. McHugh said.

The chief of staff of the Army said the service's No. 1 priority is combat readiness, and that the leadership development that comes from attending Ranger School is a key component of that.

"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," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said.

In January, the Army announced that it would for the first time open Ranger School to women, as part of a "Ranger Course Assessment." That assessment kicked off in April, as part of Ranger Course 06-15.

Two women who entered Ranger School at that time, 1st Lt. Shaye L. Haver and Capt. Kristen M. Griest, eventually graduated the school Aug. 21, and a third woman is in the final phase of the school in Florida.

Now, all women who want to embrace the challenge and the opportunity to earn the Ranger tab will be able to enroll in the school, if they meet the stringent requirements to attend.

Maj. Gen. Austin S. Miller, commander of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, said during an Aug. 20 press conference that those same stringent requirements and standards were not changed as part of the Ranger Course Assessment.

"Up front, what we've been very consistent on is we've said there will be no change to the standards ... and there weren't," he said. "We also said ... we're going to be professional and objective as we work our way through this process, which is exactly what you would expect from a Ranger-qualified instructor or anybody else in the Army."

Just a day before her graduation from Ranger School, Griest said that for other women who want to attend the school, perseverance and confidence are key to making it through.

"I personally know a lot of women interested in going, and for whatever reason, whether it is timing or deployment or they are in some school at this point in time, they weren't able to go to this assessment," Griest said. "But I know many very qualified women that I can think of that could pass the course or at least make a very good attempt. I would encourage them to go. And I would say keep doing what they are doing. They are motivated. It is definitely more of a mental challenge than physical. If you mentally know you want to get through - and you have to want to get through - than you will make it."

Current Army policy allows female students who successfully complete Ranger School to receive a graduation certificate and be awarded, and authorized to wear, the Ranger tab. However, female graduates will not receive the associated Ranger skill identifiers or be assigned to Ranger-coded units or positions.

According to an Army spokesperson, there are three more Ranger Schools scheduled this year, one in September, one in October, and one in November. He said it usually takes two to three months to prepare for Ranger School, so if other female Soldiers hope to attend the school, it is likely they will enter the November course.

(Editor's note: A Department of the Army press release contributed to this article.)