Female soldiers have until Dec. 1 to volunteer to attend Ranger School this spring as part of an assessment to determine whether and how to open combat arms military occupational specialties to women.
Female soldiers wishing to serve as observers/advisers have an accelerated deadline of Oct. 10.
And while the decision to move forward with this one-time, integrated Ranger School assessment isn’t expected until January, the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, is preparing for the possibility.
“At Fort Benning, what we’ll do is we’ll make all the prudent planning to do this as professionally and objectively as possible,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commanding general of the Maneuver Center told Army Times on Sept. 17. If the assessment moves forward, it likely will take place in the spring, and the Army will need volunteers already in place and ready to go.
If the assessment takes place, it will be a first for the storied Ranger School, which until now has been open only to men.
“It’s about soldiers, it’s not about males and females,” Miller said.
The Maneuver Center has had “no pressure to change the standards,” and there will be no changes to existing standards, Miller said.
The Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, which runs Ranger School, has been busy preparing for the possible integrated course, said Col. David Fivecoat, the brigade commander. This includes looking at possible changes to barracks, latrines and showers to accommodate female students, and looking at medical pre-screening and different requirements for females.
Another key to the brigade’s preparation is seeking volunteers to be observer/advisers, Fivecoat said. The observer/advisers will work alongside the all-male Ranger instructor cadre. They will serve as extra eyes and ears and as a sounding board for the RIs, but they will not evaluate or grade Ranger School students, Fivecoat said. That will still be done by the RIs.
“We’re looking for some high quality women officers and [noncommissioned officers],” he said. Their presence will ease the transition, something Fivecoat called “a major change for the organization.”
“We thought it would be helpful to bring women into the course prior to the arrival of the first women students” to ease “isolation” issues or concerns among female students, Fivecoat said, and give them “an opportunity to succeed.”
Here’s what you need to know to apply to attend Ranger School:
■ Female soldiers in the ranks of E-4 through O-4, from all three Army components, can apply. They must be volunteers; they cannot be directed to participate.
Volunteers must have an end term of service date no earlier than Oct. 1, 2016.
■ Women chosen to attend the course must complete an approved Ranger physical exam and audiogram.
■ Female volunteers will be given a pregnancy test during in-processing. Pregnant soldiers will be disenrolled.
■ Female volunteers also must have their commander’s validation letter for in-processing. That letter certifies that the soldier is proficient on Ranger tasks and Ranger assessment phase requirements. This includes the Ranger physical assessment, which consists of 49 pushups, 59 situps, a 5-mile run in 40 minutes, and six chinups. Other tasks include a 12-mile foot march in three hours, the combat water survival assessment, and land navigation.
■ Female students must attend the two-week Army National Guard Ranger Training and Assessment Course at Fort Benning before the start of their Ranger School class.
If a soldier fails to pass RTAC, he or she may not necessarily be dropped from Ranger School, Fivecoat said. .
■Volunteers are encouraged to complete the 90-day physical training plan provided by the ARTB.
“We recommend they start on the 90-day plan right now,” Fivecoat said.
■Female volunteers who successfully complete and graduate from Ranger School will receive a graduation certificate and be authorized to wear the Ranger tab. However, pending future decisions about whether women will be allowed to serve in combat arms MOSs, they will not receive the associated Ranger skill identifiers or be assigned to Ranger coded units or positions.
Here’s what you need to know to apply to be an observer/adviser:
■ Female soldiers in the ranks of E-6 through E-8, chief warrant officer 2 and 3, and O-2 through O-4, from all three Army components, can apply.
■ Volunteers must meet height and weight standards, and they must not have a physical limiting profile.
■ Candidates will be evaluated on their ability to perform Ranger tasks and Ranger Assessment Phase requirements.
“We need to make sure the observer/advisers can keep up,” Fivecoat said. “The Ranger instructors walk for 24-hour periods with the Ranger students.”
■ Volunteers with drill sergeant or AIT platoon sergeant experience, or those with combat training center observer/controller experience, and those who have successfully completed physically demanding functional Army courses are highly desired. This experience is not required.
■ To apply, volunteers should submit a packet that includes their officer or enlisted record brief; copies of their last three evaluation reports; an Army physical fitness scorecard dated within six months of submitting their application; and a letter to the ARTB commander about why they want to serve as observer/advisers. The letter can be one to two paragraphs and should not be longer than one page.
■ Female soldiers who are selected will be assessed over an eight-day period at Fort Benning. They will be assessed on their ability to meet the physical requirements, and they also will provide a written after-action report and participate in exit interviews.
■ Applications must be in by Oct. 10. Candidates who are selected will be notified on or around Oct. 20. The assessment will take place in mid-November. Those selected to serve will be brought back in December to observe a class of all male students, Fivecoat said.