Allen B. West

Why is it so critical to have women in Army Ranger School NOW?

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In full disclosure, early in my military career I twice requested to attend the U.S. Army Ranger School but was denied due to my follow-on assignments — first the 325th Airborne Battalion Combat Team in Vicenza, Italy and second, the 4th Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, First Infantry Division. In both instances the necessity for reporting to those units superseded an additional 70-day delay while attending Ranger School and probable leave.

I still keep up with my PT routine and back in the day, my best two-mile PT run was 10:35 — I was a skinny 2LT then. When I showed up in Vicenza, Italy I had to do my “indoc” run as a new Airborne officer — the vaunted 8-mile run from our base, Caserma Ederle through the city to Monte Berici (Mount Berico) to the Basilica that overlooked the town. I still shudder thinking about the final climb to the top — and then you had to run back.

That was an unwritten standard, just like the six-mile ruck sack runs out the “back 40” to the local village and back. Today things have changed — no more running in boots. I guess it was proven to be not good for the body. Then again, neither is being hit by a bullet.

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Now, why am I confiding all of this with you? Because it’s 2015 and according to the decree from the lords of social egalitarianism, we now have female soldiers allowed to attend U.S. Army Ranger School — next year the lords have declared the same for U.S. Navy SEAL training.

And so 60 females were allowed to enter Ranger Training Assessment Course (RTAC) beginning in January this year. According to, “A dozen women have now qualified for the Army’s Ranger School, putting them one step closer to becoming the first females to complete one of the military’s most elite special operations training programs alongside men. Six servicewomen successfully passed the latest round of the Ranger Training Assessment Course, or RTAC, qualifying them for the first gender-integrated full Ranger Course beginning on April 20, the Army announced on Wednesday. The two-month combat training course is considered to be one of the toughest in the military.”

“Five women qualified during the first RTAC in January, and one in the second round in February. “As we’ve seen from the Ranger Course, women are able to take on the challenges,” Army Secretary John McHugh told Defense One recently. “Not all men can be infantrymen, and not all women can and would want to be infantrymen.”

I will leave it up to those who have completed Ranger school and earned the coveted Ranger Tab to make comment, but I’d like to offer these thoughts.

First of all, is this being done because there’s a requirement in the force, or is this just an experiment in social justice? Just for the layperson let me explain what I knew about the Ranger School PT assessment.

Regardless of your age, everyone was evaluated against the Army PT standard for the 17-21 year old male — and those were the toughest standards for pushups, sit-ups, and two-mile run. Now in reality there are several age categories as well as a separation between PT standards for males and females.

So my first question is whether or not the female candidates had to pass the PT test based upon the 17-21 year old male standard — or was that changed?

“The standards are the same during the gender-integrated RTAC iterations, and they won’t change,” Maj. William Woodard, company commander at the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning, Ga., said in the Army release.”

Hmm, that statement reminds me of the Reagan quote, “trust but verify.”

Are there women out there capable of exceeding the standard, sure, but is that the exception or the rule? And why is it now, during wholehearted degradation of U.S. military capability and capacity does anyone feel this is the right time?

Because, as the article states, “Even if these women pass the Ranger Course and get their Ranger tab, that doesn’t mean they’ll join the 75th Ranger Regiment — beyond more training and schooling, it is currently only open to men. “

So I suppose this will all be a very nice feel good moment and will provide the Obama administration a cute Rose Garden photo op and a “legacy” bullet point of having advanced the cause of women with the first female Ranger School graduate. I suppose I’d rather have that than a nuclear Iran as a legacy.

So what is this really about? These words sum it up succinctly:

“The Army’s gender-integrated RTACs and Ranger Course are part of an ongoing, military-wide assessment of the remaining barriers to full gender-integration in the military, ordered by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Unless a service requests and is granted an exemption, by January 2016, all military occupation specialties, or MOS, across the services will be opened to women. “I will tell you that the assessment course has been very, very valuable experience,” McHugh said. “It’s also been valuable for the Army because it’s helped us understand some of the challenges that are attendant to integration on the battlefield.” “We are very methodically determining what the required physical skills for the MOS’s may be,” McHugh said, “not to lower the standards, not to accommodate women, but to better posture every soldier, male or female, for success and also to ensure that whatever job they’re doing, they’re actually physically able to do it.”

So there you have it. The mentality of “every kid gets a trophy” has finally come to the U.S. military. The idea of guaranteeing success and making it equal for all has breached the defenses of the warrior elite.

It’s no wonder that all of a sudden NBC has a new show called “American Odyssey” depicting what? A female Special Forces officer — just as during the Clinton Administration we had the movie “GI Jane” and Anne Bancroft’s character really seemed to resemble Colorado Congresswoman Pat Schroeder who was the first female to sit on the House Armed Services Committee.

So what do I think? I think that if we were in a time of peace, we could embark on this type of experimentation. However, at a time when we have such a volatile global security situation, the time is not now. If we weren’t decimating our military capability and capacity, then this would be a bit more palatable. What I don’t want to see is another political photo op by the Commander-in-Chief Obama a la the Bergdahl fiasco that in the long run ends up being an embarrassing moment for our country.

This could have waited — and don’t give me the false equivalency narrative to integrating blacks into the military. They had long since proved they could meet and exceed the defined standards in heroic fashion.

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