The Army on Monday evening announced two women and 94 men met the standards of the course's third and final phase, also known as the Swamp Phase.Two women will graduate from Ranger School on Friday, becoming the first two women to earn the Ranger Tab.

Their graduation ceremony will take place Friday on Victory Pond at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The women are part of the Army's gender-integrated assessment of the grueling two-month Ranger School.

The assessment has drawn a high level of scrutiny, with many questioning whether the Army is lowering its standards for the elite school, — which until now has been was open only to men, — while many others have cheered on the female students.

Army officials have long insisted that the standards have were not been changed in any way.

"Congratulations to all of our new Rangers," Army Secretary John McHugh said in a statement. "Each Ranger School graduate has shown the physical and mental toughness to successfully lead organizations at any level. This course has proven that every soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential."

McHugh added: "We owe soldiers the opportunity to serve successfully in any position where they are qualified and capable, and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best soldiers to meet our nation's needs."

The women, both officers, started the Swamp Phase on Aug. 1 after three tries at the school's first phase, known as the Darby Phase, at Fort Benning, Georgia, and one try at the second phase, known as the Mountain Phase, in Dahlonega, Georgia.

Swamp Phase, which takes place at Camp Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, focuses on the continued development of the students' leadership and small unit tactics, according to the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade website.

During the Swamp Phase, students learn waterborne operations, small boat movements and stream crossings. They also will be required to execute extended platoon-level operations in a coastal swamp environment.

Two women will graduate from Ranger School and earn the tab, the Army reported.

Photo Credit: Sgt. Sara Wakai/Army

On average, about 45 percent of Ranger School students will graduate from the course. Ranger School is the Army's premier combat leadership course, teaching students how to overcome fatigue, hunger and stress to lead soldiers in small-unit combat operations, according to the Army.

The women in the course are part of a one-time, integrated assessment of the storied school. The assessment is part of a wider effort to determine whether and how to open combat arms jobs to women. Army leaders have said a second such assessment likely will take place in the fall, although no final decisions have been made.

Nineteen female and 381 male soldiers started Ranger School on April 20. Eight of the women made it through RAP week.

None of the eight women made it past the Darby Phase on the first try and were recycled, along with 101 of their male classmates, on May 8.

After the second attempt at the Darby Phase, three female and two male students on May 29 were given the option of a Day One Recycle, which is a normal course procedure that's used when students struggle with one aspect of the course and excel at others, said officials at Fort Benning.

The two male students declined to recycle, officials said.

Soldiers conduct Mountaineering training on July 14 during the Ranger Course on Mount Yonah in Cleveland, Ga.

Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Scott Brooks/Army

The remaining five women returned to their units and were not recycled again. A total of 29 students were dropped from the course for failing to meet the standards of the Darby Phase.

These students did not meet the standard for a number of reasons, including leading patrols, poor peer evaluations, too many negative spot reports, or a combination of all three.

The three remaining female students started the Mountain Phase of Ranger School on July 11. One female soldier was required to recycle Mountain Phase with the rotation beginning Aug. 8.

On average, more than 34 percent of Ranger School graduates recycle at least one phase of the school. About 61 percent of recycles are due to patrols.

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.

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