Nineteen women on Monday started the one-time, integrated assessment at the Army's two-month Ranger School.
The assessment is part of a wider effort to determine whether and how to open combat arms jobs to women, and it is a first for the storied Ranger School, which until now has been open only to men.
"The standard for the Ranger course is for students to have the shortest haircut authorized by AR 670-1," said Col. William Butler, deputy commandant of the U.S. Army Infantry School.
The short hair is "for hygiene," making it easier to find ticks, and for uniformity, Butler said.
For men, the standard is a buzzed haircut using clippers with no guard.
The standard for women is defined as "hair length that extends no more than one inch from the scalp (excluding bangs), according to Butler, citing Army Regulation 670-1, which is the Army's appearance regulation.
The women's hair may be no shorter than one-quarter inch from the scalp, but may be evenly tapered to the scalp within two inches of the hair line edges, according to AR 670-1.
Bangs, if any, may not fall below the eyebrows and may extend to the hairline at the temple, Butler said.
By Thursday, the end of RAP week, eight women and 184 men remained in the Ranger course, officials at Fort Benning said.
RAP, which stands for Ranger Assessment Phase, spans the first four days of Ranger School. During this time, soldiers are evaluated on a series of punishing physical events, including a physical fitness test, a swim test and a land navigation test. Students also must complete a 12-mile foot march wearing a 35-pound rucksack in under three hours.
A total of 19 female and 381 male soldiers started the two-month Ranger School Monday.
This is the first time women have been allowed to attend Ranger School.
To prepare, officials had to look at everything from accommodations to personal hygiene.
The Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, which runs Ranger School, even updated its packing list for students to include several items specific for female students. They include feminine wipes, sports bras, cotton underwear, pads or tampons, and a female urinary diversion device, or FUDD.
With use of a FUDD, a female soldier in the field can urinate more discreetly while standing and with minimal undressing.
The Army, through a careful selection process, also tapped more than two dozen female noncommissioned officers and officers to serve as observer/advisers. These soldiers were selected to work alongside the Ranger instructors and serve as extra eyes and ears and as a sounding board for the all-male cadre. The women will not evaluate or grade Ranger School students.
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.