As many as 20 women are expected to start Ranger School on Monday as the Army runs a one-time integrated assessment at the famously grueling course.
The final eight women to qualify to attend Ranger School on Thursday successfully completed the Ranger Training Assessment Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. Twelve women successfully completed the two-week RTAC during previous rotations.
The Army announced in January that it will conduct a one-time, integrated assessment at its storied Ranger School in April. The assessment is part of a wider effort to determine whether and how to open combat arms jobs to women. This assessment will be a first for Ranger School, which until now has been open only to men.
Women who successfully complete Ranger School will receive a certificate and be awarded the coveted Ranger tab. They will not, however, be assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment, which is separate from Ranger School.
To prepare for the April assessment, the Army required female candidates to attend the two-week Army National Guard Ranger Training and Assessment Course. Officials allotted seats for female candidates in each iteration of the course between January and April. The course has historically been a strong indicator of whether a candidate will be successful at Ranger School, officials said. Data has shown that more than half of the soldiers who complete RTAC will successfully complete Ranger School.
U.S. Army soldiers conduct a obstacle course during the Ranger Training Assessment Course on April 5 at Fort Benning, Ga.
Photo Credit: Spc. Dacotah Lane/Army
During the first integrated cycle of RTAC in January, 122 soldiers started the course; 26 of them were women.
A total of 58 soldiers — 53 men and five women — successfully completed the course Jan. 30.
One woman and 35 men successfully completed the February rotation of RTAC. A total of 100 soldiers, including 17 women, started the course.
A total of 119 soldiers — 34 of them women — started the March iteration of the course.
Soldiers practice battle drill movements for the Ranger Training Assessment Course at Camp Butler on Fort Benning, Ga., on April 4.
Photo Credit: Sgt. Paul Sale/Army
In all, 31 soldiers (25 men, six women) successfully completed the course March 19.
In April, during the final integrated RTAC, 78 men and 61 women started the course.
Of the 78 men in the course, 30 successfully completed it. Of the 61 women who started the course, eight successfully completed it.
RTAC is two weeks long and consists of two phases, according to information from Fort Benning.
The first phase of RTAC mirrors the assessment phase at Ranger School and is designed to assess a soldier's physical and mental abilities. During this phase, a student conducts a PT test, a swim test, land navigation, and a 6-mile foot march. The second phase of RTAC, the field training exercise, is designed to assess and train soldiers on troop leading procedures and patrolling, skills that are used extensively during the Ranger School.
Soldiers participate in a class on squad attacks during the Ranger Training Assessment Course.
Photo Credit: Pfc. Lewis, Antonio/Army
On average, about 45 percent of Ranger School students will graduate. As many as 60 percent of all Ranger School failures will occur in the first four days. Many get disqualified during the physical fitness test on the first day. The test gives candidates two minutes to do 49 pushups and two minutes to do 59 situps, and they also must run five miles in 40 minutes and do six chinups.
In fiscal 2014, PT test failures made up the largest number of Ranger School failures.
The pushup portion of the PT test has been difficult for male and female candidates at RTAC, officials said.
Some don't have the right form, while others couldn't do the 49 required of them within the allotted time.
Both RTAC and Ranger School are "physically and mentally demanding" courses, Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, has said.
"Not every soldier is going to make it through this course," he said. "The standards are demanding, and the standards are not changing. They're not changing in the pre-Ranger course, and they're not going to change for the Ranger Course."
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.