The U.S. Army announced Wednesday that its elite Ranger School will be open to all genders permanently. The move comes less than a month after two women successfully completed the program.
“We must ensure that this training opportunity is available to all soldiers who are qualified and capable,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh said, as reported by TIME. “We continue to look for ways to select, train and retain the best soldiers to meet our nation’s needs.”
The Army announced that “qualified personnel will be able to attend all future classes” of Ranger School “regardless of gender.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said, “The Army’s number one priority is combat readiness, and leader development is a function of combat readiness. Giving every qualified soldier the opportunity to attend the Ranger Course, the Army’s premier small unit leadership school, ensures we are maintaining our combat readiness today, tomorrow and for future generations.”
The Army allowed women to seek admission in certain classes in an attempt to remove barriers for women who want to serve in ground combat. However, its two-month course – which includes students patrolling through mountains and swamps with very limited sleep and food – remains unchanged.
While women have been allowed into combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have not been allowed to undergo some of the most grueling and demanding tasks. They are still not allowed from entering the Ranger Regiment, the infantry and other fields under what is called the ground combat exclusion.
According to Al Jazeera, President Barack Obama’s administration called for all combat positions to be open to women by 2016. These positions include infantry, artillery, armor and special forces. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has the ultimate authority on which positions should be open to women. In case an exception needs to be made, the approval will come from Carter.
Women’s physical requirements will be an empirical consideration, as service chiefs are in support of allowing women to seek admission in their forces as long as they meet the same requirements as men.
According to ArmyTimes.com, the combat leadership course at Ranger School trains students to overcome fatigue, hunger and stress to prepare them for small-unit combat operations. Students who receive their Ranger Tabs do not automatically become part of the regiment, which has its own criteria and requirements.
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