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The First Women to Beat Ranger School

Topics: Current Events

It’s impressive news. Two women – Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver – overcame seemingly overwhelming odds to pass the Army’s Ranger School, at Fort Benning, Georgia. It’s a daunting feat for any soldier, but for female soldiers, it’s also a milestone: until this year, they weren’t even allowed to attempt the leadership course.

Women Beat Ranger School

 (Female soldier; Photo Credit: skeeze/Pixabay)

So, why should we care?

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Gender aside, it’s impressive.

Yes, believe it or not, these women were the only two – out of 17 women – to pass the course. (One other female soldier is still in the leadership course.) It’s also important to note that 381 male soldiers started the course at the same time, with 94 men completing it. The course has a 45 percent overall fail rate. Demands on soldiers’ mental and physical fortitude include lack of sleep and food, as the soldiers patrol and overcome obstacles in swimming, parachute exercises, combat, and mountaineering.

With this accomplishment, Griest and Haver join the ranks of other trailblazing military women like Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Revolutionary War; Mary Walker, a Civil War surgeon and Medal of Honor recipient whose male attire required an act of Congress; and Kara S. Hultgreen, the first female fighter pilot.

Shattering the military glass ceiling?

Before we start celebrating too much, these women still won’t be taking on infantry or other ground-combat role any time soon. They’ll wear the Ranger Tab, but will not serve in a Ranger Regiment.

This achievement answers some questions, but prompts others. Yes, we now have evidence that women can beat the odds, and pass at least one previously inaccessible course, but that doesn’t really open the door beyond a crack. The glass ceiling may now be in sight, but female soldiers haven’t yet shattered it.

It’s part of the overall review process.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the ban that prevented women from serving in ground combat in 2013, but the military brass still has until the end of 2015 to cease all gender discrimination or justify why it’s necessary. In light of that imminent deadline, the accomplishments of these two female soldiers may help to further demonstrate the overall value of women to the military – in every area, including Infantry, Special Forces, and Armor. (Military officials also announced plans to allow women to join the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force.)

With time still left for discussion and final decisions on the ban, there’s some indication that the Marines will ask for an exception to allowing women in infantry roles.

Distraction, really?

Since the ban was first lifted, we’ve heard the arguments that women are a distraction, and military spokespersons are still making that claim. Interestingly enough, as we’re talking about history-making moments, those (or similar) claims have been made about the integration of women into most other areas of the workplace. It’s time that we set aside that well-worn argument. Haven’t women already proven their worth?

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think women should be banned from infantry and other ground-combat roles? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Esther Lombardi
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