These Army officers seems like any others — carrying a 17-pound machine gun, sporting a buzz-cut and pulling a black Zodiac boat into the water for a two-mile paddle seem like normal Army training.
However, this was not any ordinary officer doing a task during Ranger school in Camp James E. Rudder, Florida, the top Army leadership course.
According to The Seattle Times, the officer is one of two women that may be one month away from being the first women to graduate from Ranger school.
Despite graduating from the most physically and mentally challenging courses in the military, they will not be permitted to try out for the Ranger regiment, however. They also won’t be able to serve as a tank officer or as infantry in the Army.
Army leaders are debating just how far women should be allowed to enter into combat roles. They are currently considering women for some of the most dangerous jobs, such as fast-roping Ranger battalions.
Women already perform intelligence gathering and some of SEAL Team Six’s top-secret Black Squadron tasks.
In 2013, the Pentagon said it was lifting the ban on woman in combat. This became a nod to gender equality and was a move towards allowing women on the front lines.
“There have been women in combat since the wars kicked off,” said Sgt. 1st Class Frances Espinal-Teter. Espinal-Teter is a female soldier assigned to observe training.
According to The New York Times, the performances of the two female officers currently in Ranger school and the 17 other women who didn’t make it as far will be a determining factor in whether women are allowed to attend Ranger school.
It was only open to men, until this year. By Jan. 1, the services must decide the positions they want to keep off-limits to women. The defense secretary will be making the final call.
The Marines recently opened their infantry-officer course up to 29 female officers, but none of them passed.
The Army has only disclosed that the two women are West Point graduates, but nothing more. The Army wants to protect the privacy of the students and instructors as well as not distract them from the two-month course.