Five female soldiers successfully completed the Ranger Training Assessment Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, moving them one step closer to attending the Army's storied Ranger School this spring.
A total of 58 soldiers — 53 men, five women — completed the two-week course Jan. 30, officials at Fort Benning announced Wednesday.
In all, 122 soldiers started the course, for a completion rate of almost 48 percent.
Among the men, 55 percent of them successfully completed the course (96 started the course; 53 successfully completed it). Among the women, 19 percent were successful (26 started the course; five successfully completed it).
The five women are all officers.
The Army announced in January that it plans to conduct a one-time, integrated assessment at 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 the two-month 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 assessment in April, the Army is requiring female candidates to attend the two-week Army National Guard Ranger Training and Assessment Course. There will be up to 40 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.
Male and female Ranger Training Assessment Course students demonstrate their knowledge of combat water survival techniques Jan. 24 during the Ranger Training Course Assessment at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Photo Credit: Patrick A. Albright/Army
The second iteration of RTAC began Friday at Fort Benning. As many as 21 women were scheduled to participate in that iteration, including one of the women who did not successfully complete the first iteration of RTAC.
RTAC is two weeks long and consists of two phases, according to information from Fort Benning.
"If we put people through this and they're able to meet the prerequisites, we've found they have a higher success rate when they go through the Ranger course," Miller said.
RTAC and Ranger School are tough courses, he said.
"They're rigorous, they are physically demanding," he said. "When we look at a population of 300 to 400 people who start a Ranger course, over the course of time we will watch the attrition go up to 50 percent and, in some cases, up above 50 percent."
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.
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.
That was mirrored in the just-completed iteration of RTAC, said Maj. William "Shep" Woodard, commander of A Company, Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, which runs the course.
"The females failed for the same reasons the men failed," he said. "For the most part, it was the PT test."
There are no plans to change the standards for Ranger School or RTAC, Miller said.
"There's some emotion about the course, but there's absolutely no intention to change any of the current standards," he said.
Of the 26 women who started RTAC in January, 16 completed the training. Five of those 16 successfully met all the course standards and requirements, Jones said.
"I want to make it really clear. If they do not meet the prerequisites at the RTAC, I'm not recommending them to move forward to the Ranger course," Miller said. "We're trying to set the soldiers up for the best possible chance of success as we go forward. This is soldiers being afforded the opportunities commensurate with their abilities."
Of the 26 women who started the course, 19 are officers, six are noncommissioned officers, and one is a specialist, Jones said.
All five of the soldiers who successfully completed the RTAC are officers. One is a major and the others are first lieutenants, Woodard said.
Those five have been invited to attend the Ranger School assessment in April, Jones said.
"They've qualified themselves to be invited," he said.
The others, if their chains of command allow it, can come back and try RTAC again between now and April, Jones said.
One of those women has already signed in to try again, Woodard said.
During the first iteration of RTAC, the female candidates were thankful for the opportunity to participate, Woodard said.
"They definitely wanted to be treated the same, no deference paid," he said.
It's too early to know how many women will end up qualifying to attend Ranger School in April, Miller said.
"To me, the right number is those candidates who are best prepared for the course," he said. "It's always great to see any soldier, male or female, that's willing to raise their hand and voluntarily step forward and undertake some of this rigorous training."
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.