Bolstering case for women Rangers, one more passes to final phase

Should this female major pass the swamp phase, she will join Capt. Kristen Griest and Capt. Shaye Haver as the first women to earn Ranger tabs. But it's still not clear if they will be allowed to serve in the Ranger Regiment.

Anna Mulrine/The Christian Science Monitor
A woman soldier climbs the steepest ascent in the mountain phase of Ranger School. For the first time, three women, all West Point graduates, are participating in the grueling phase of Ranger training.

One more woman has passed the mountain phase of Ranger School, the Army announced Friday afternoon.

The woman, a major and the mother of two, will now move on to the swamp phase of Ranger School. If she passes this final, three-week-long phase, she will become the third woman ever to earn a Ranger tab.

The Army has asked that the names of the students be withheld until they complete the course.

Capt. Kristen Griest and Capt. Shaye Haver, who was promoted shortly after she passed Ranger School, became the first women ever to earn Ranger tabs in a graduation ceremony one week ago. 

The three women each repeated the first phase of Ranger School, known as the Darby phase, three times before moving on to the mountains. 

All three are graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point. 

While Captains Griest and Haver moved on to the swamp phase after one attempt in the mountains, the third woman was given the opportunity to repeat the course after she failed patrolling. 

In this most recent mountain phase, 45 men were also given the option to repeat the course, known as “recycling” in military parlance. Only about 30 percent of students make it straight through Ranger school. 

Another 104 Ranger students, including the female major, were given the green light to move on to the swamp phase, located at Camp Rudder, Fla.

The students will spend the next three weeks in the coastal swamps near Valparaiso, Fla., with four days of waterborne operations, small boat movements, and stream crossings.

The students will then move on to an intense 10-day field training exercise with graded, student-led patrols.

If they are successful, the next crop of students will graduate in a ceremony at Fort Benning, Ga., on Sept. 18.

The Army has announced that it will launch a new co-ed Ranger School class in November. It's only the second co-ed class in Ranger School history and still viewed by the Pentagon as an experiment.

Before he retired earlier this month as Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Raymond Odierno said that the Army will wait until after the next co-ed class goes through Ranger School in November to make a decision about whether to permanently open the course to women.

The Pentagon will be opening all combat jobs to women in January, unless the services ask for an exemption, backed by scientific research, explaining why women are not physically able to serve in certain combat jobs. 

In the meantime, the services have until Oct. 1 to provide initial reports to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff requesting these exemptions. 

“I’ll review the services' recommendations and make a final determination on that issue by the end of this year,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a Pentagon press briefing last week.

During the briefing he praised the accomplishments of Griest and Haver, and was also asked whether the Ranger Regiment would soon be open to women as well. (Currently, while women have now earned the Ranger tab, they still aren’t permitted to serve as Rangers in the special operations branch of the force.)

Secretary Carter hedged on the answer.

“There will be successive classes of Rangers, I presume that they will include successive classes of females,” he said. “And if some of them in the future wish to become Rangers – then this process that will come to a conclusion in just a few months is going to be very, very important.” 

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