Sunday, August 23, 2015

Two Females Graduate from Ranger Course

To the applause of almost everyone (if relying on Internet news stories and Twitter tweets is a reliable measure of opinion) two female Soldiers have graduated from the Army's premier infantry training course. The Ranger School finally admitted female Soldiers to start the training. After months of preparation, a few recycles, and a few different Ranger course sequences spanning April through August two of the women made it through the tough training. Both are West Point graduates and will have the honor of wearing the Ranger Tab through the course of their military careers. One is a Captain MP and the other a Lieutenant Apache helicopter pilot. One of the graduates is a veteran of an Afghan deployment. I suspect their future is bright. It won't be long before the special operations community scoffs these two Rangers up. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that one of them is attempting the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) next. More on that below.

Advocates for women taking a greater role in combat arms of the military will point to these two women as evidence that women can cut it in combat units. The test of time will tell if allowing women into infantry squads and Ranger companies is a good idea. Certainly there is a role for women in combat - this has been proven time and again over the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan. One need only point out their value in programs such as the Female Engagement Teams or FETs (that supported Marine and Army infantry units) and the Cultural Support Teams or CSTs (that supported special operations forces) to recognize their importance in the fight. The Navy has come out with news that the SEALs will open up their training to females. Demi Moore is vindicated!

Some of the Special Mission Units (SMUs) have integrated women into their training and operations for many years - in fact, many feel that special operations has been in the forefront (in a quiet way) for integrating women into their units. (Learn about "Project Diane" and the OSS on the USASOC website). Women as shooters on a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha? Hmmmm. It probably won't be long before the Army announces the entrance of women into Special Forces units at the combat level. While Ranger training is two (very hard) months, Special Forces training at the entry level is in excess of one year - and depending on the military occupational specialty - almost two years. Once again, time will tell. Now that MG Scotty Miller (heading up the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning) has "led the way" to getting women integrated into Ranger training the spotlight moves onto LTG Ken Tovo (USASOC cdr) and MG Kraft (Special Forces Command) at Fort Bragg.

If a female does attend and complete the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) then she won't be the first. That ground (or camouflage ceiling) was broken years ago - in 1980 (or 1981?). Captain Kathleen Wilder, a military intelligence officer assigned to an Intel position in Special Forces found that there was nothing in the regulation against women attending the Special Forces Officer Course. She pressed Department of the Army to attend (a little Congressional help was instrumental I believe) and was able to attend the Special Forces Officer Course (SFOC). Back then SFOC was different than the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC). SFOC was for officers and SFQC was for enlisted. The officer course was way easy compared to SFQC. Wilder's graduation from SFOC changed all of that. Shortly after her graduation the potential SF officers had to go through the training with the enlisted. One of the best things that ever happened to SF!

The Army put on quite a show for the Ranger class graduation. You can watch a one hour long video of a press conference published on on August 21, 2015 by US Army TRADOC.

For me, I take comfort in knowing that I was in the last HARD RANGER CLASS! Desert Legion!

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