Instructors claim first female enlisted to earn Ranger tab actually quit, given special treatment

Staff Sergeant Amanda Kelley (photo credit: US Army/ Patrick A. Albright)

The first female to graduate Ranger School allegedly quit during the first phase of training and was given more opportunities to restart phases of the course, according to sources within the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade.

The US Army celebrated a “first” in August after 29-year-old Staff Sergeant Amanda Kelley graduated from Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, following several female officers who have already completed the course.

However, several sources -including Ranger Instructors (RIs) whose names have been withheld- say that the NCO quit during the first phase of training, but was allowed to come back and even recycle several times, something that has never happened in a course that is supposed to automatically disqualify those who “tap out.”

“She was given more recycles and even quit during the first phase,” an RI source said, speaking on conditions of anonymity.

The Public Affairs team at Fort Benning’s Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade would not comment on the matter, claiming that more information would need to be gathered before an official statement could be prepared.

While quitting (also known as “Loss of Motivation”) is an automatic disqualifier and often a career-ender, Ranger students can be recycled if they perform satisfactorily but are injured or sent home for emergency reasons.

Staff Sergeant Amanda Kelley (photo credit: US Army/ Patrick A. Albright)

Soldiers who fail one of the three phases (Benning, Mountain, and Swamp) due to a medical issue, failing their patrol evaluations, peer evaluations, and/or collecting three or more bad spot reports in a phase can be given the opportunity to start the phase over with the next Ranger class -this is referred to as a “recycle.”

This isn’t the first time, however, that accusations have arisen of standards being relaxed in order to push along the integration of women into combat and leadership training. In 2015, an Army Times article revealed that a female Ranger School student was permitted to repeat every phase of Ranger training, something then-ARTB commander Colonel David Fivecoat said was rare, but not unheard of.

“This occurs for approximately 15 students each year, with each situation considered on a case-by-case basis depending on the circumstances,” Fivecoat told the Army Times in 2015.

Earlier this year, a female candidate was dropped after it was discovered that she was pregnant with the child of one of her fellow Ranger School students. However, conception had reportedly taken place before the course began, and the woman had made it to Mountain Phase before it was discovered that she was expecting.

Down the road from the first phase of Ranger school at Fort Benning, at Sand Hill, Infantry recruits claimed that a clear double-standard existed for their female counterparts, including lighter rucks and lower expectations.

“No way,” one soldier told Popular Military last year, after being asked if women were held to the same standards. “Lighter rucks, things like that.”

Women were first allowed to enter the Ranger program in 2015, and have since dominated headlines every time one graduates the course.

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