This month, the first official integrated Ranger School class got underway at Fort Benning, Georgia. Women were among the students, but the Army has refused to provide any additional details.
It's apparent the school's leadership is taking a "mission accomplished" attitude after earning the OK to permanently open the school to both men and women. But now officials are obstructing other soldiers, potential recruits, members of Congress and the American taxpayers from understanding basic information about the service's plan moving forward, such as:
- The number of women who have since enrolled.
- The number of women who have been cut.
- The number of women who have applied for observer/adviser roles.
This information speaks to the new roles female soldiers are being offered at Ranger School. More broadly, expansion of opportunities for women in uniform — to include front-line combat jobs — is among the most important matters being assessed by the Defense Department. It should surprise no one that every step of this process, to include Ranger School, will face enormous scrutiny. Accountability and oversight are vital to this process.
Three female soldiers already have earned the Ranger Tab. All were part of the Army's initial gender-integration research, before the school officially opened to women. Based on anecdotes from male students and information later released by the Army secretary's office, it's clear those women performed as well and, in some cases better, than the men did.
Unfortunately, after complaints arose suggesting the Army manipulated its standards so these women could pass, the service has failed to convince everyone that its research was conducted fairly. That includes Rep. Steve Russell, who continues to demand the Army release all of the women's performance data.
The heightened scrutiny is understandably taking its toll on the school's leaders. But secrecy is the not the appropriate response. This process must remain transparent because when a final decision is made, no one should question its integrity.