A congressman who led an infantry battalion in combat in Iraq has asked the Army to release documents relating to the performance of the first female students in Ranger School.
Rep. Steve Russell, a Republican from Oklahoma who served in the Army for 21 years, requested the documents in a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh, according to a report in People magazine.
The letter, obtained by the magazine, gave McHugh until Friday to produce documents outlining the female soldiers' test scores, evaluations, injuries, pre-training and more, People reported. The letter was delivered to McHugh on Sept. 15, according to the magazine.
"The training of our combat warriors is paramount to our national defense," Russell wrote. "In order to ensure that the Army retains its ability to defend the nation, we must ensure that our readiness is not sacrificed."
McHugh's spokesman, Lt. Col. Justin Platt, confirmed the Army has received the letter and said the service will respond to the congressman.
Attempts to reach Russell's office and McHugh's spokesman were not immediately successful. In the article, Russell does not go so far as to accuse the Army of compromising standards. However, a "Capitol Hill source" told People the letter was written after rumors surfaced the women received "special treatment."
Russell, who is a Ranger School graduate who later earned a Bronze Star with Valor device, was elected to Congress in 2014. He led 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment during its deployment to Tikrit, Iraq. He retired as a lieutenant colonel, according to the bio on his website.
Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver made history Aug. 21 by becoming the first women to graduate from the storied Ranger School and earn the right to wear the distinctive black and gold tab. The women were part of a gender-integrated assessment of the school, which until earlier this year had been open only to men.
One female soldier from that group is still in Ranger School; the Army announced last week that she would recycle the Swamp Phase, which is the school's third and final phase.
Rep. Steve Russell, R-Oka., has asked Army Secretary John McHugh to provivde proof standards were not compromised when women were allowed to attend Ranger School this year.
Photo Credit: Air Force
Russell's request comes on the heels of resolutions introduced by his colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives commending Griest and Haver for their accomplishment.
"Earning the right to wear a Ranger tab is not for the faint-hearted," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in a statement announcing the Senate version of the resolution. "Capt. Griest and Lt. Haver have demonstrated that character, courage and tenacity, not gender, are the hallmarks of great service members and leaders."
Critics have for months accused the Army of lowering the standards of Ranger School or giving the female students an unfair advantage by allowing them multiple attempts at the school's three phases.
That chorus of criticism was reignited last week when the school announced the remaining female student's latest recycle opportunity; she has so far completed three attempts at the Darby Phase, two at the Mountain Phase and one at the Swamp Phase.
The criticism online and on social media has been so persistent that Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, addressed the complaints during the Aug. 21 Ranger School graduation.
During his speech, Miller recalled what the speaker at his Ranger School graduation said.
"He said, more or less, 'you have people who will question the standards of Ranger School. When they question those standards, what I ask you to do is invite them back to Fort Benning, Georgia, and re-validate their tab,'" Miller said. "To date, we've had zero takers."
Miller went on to address "noisy and inaccurate" online critics who continue to insist the Army eased it standards or was pressured to ensure at least one of the women would graduate.
"Ladies and gentlemen, [Ranger Assessment Phase] week has not changed. Standards remain the same," Miller said. "The five-mile run is still five miles. The 12-mile march is still 12 miles."
The required weight of the students' rucksacks have stayed the same, "the mountains of Dahlonega are still here, the swamps remain intact," he said.
"There was no pressure from anyone above me to change standards, and, lastly, the president of the United States was not planning, nor is he here today," Miller said. "I know there are some who still don't believe. … If you don't believe, grab your rucksack, come on down to Fort Benning, Georgia, and [we] will roll you into the next RAP week.
As part of the Army's gender-integrated assessment of Ranger School, 19 women started Ranger School in April. The Army on Sept. 2 announced that Ranger School is now open to all qualified soldiers regardless of gender.
The prerequisites for students attending Ranger School remain in effect, including the standards of medical fitness, the Army said in its announcement.
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.