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Three Female Soldiers Begin Second Attempt at Army Ranger School

U.S. Army Soldiers display teamwork during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., April 21, 2015. Soldiers attend the Ranger Course to learn additional skills in a physically and mentally demanding environment. (U.S. Army/Spc. Dacotah Lane/Released)
U.S. Army Soldiers display teamwork during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., April 21, 2015. Soldiers attend the Ranger Course to learn additional skills in a physically and mentally demanding environment. (U.S. Army/Spc. Dacotah Lane/Released)

Three of the original female soldiers to volunteer for U.S. Army Ranger School on Monday took another shot at completing the traditionally all-male infantry course.

All three of the women, who haven’t been identified, passed the Ranger Physical Fitness Assessment, the first obstacle and a requirement to enter the physically and mentally challenging two-month course, according to Col. William Butler, deputy commandant of the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

This was the second time the three female officers passed the event that many male soldiers don’t get through. It’s 49 push-ups in two minutes, 59 sit-ups in two minutes and six chin-ups to strict standard, Ranger officials maintain. They also had to complete a five-mile run in 40 minutes.

The one female major and two female first lieutenants failed at two attempts to make it through the first phase of Ranger School, but the trio’s performance impressed the school’s leadership enough to earn a chance to start over from day one.

Fort Benning held its first co-ed course of Army Ranger School on April 20. Nineteen women and 380 men were pre-screened for the combat training program.

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By the end of the first week, only eight female soldiers completed the Ranger Assessment Phase, or RAP week. But the remaining eight women weren't able to complete the first phase and advance to the second phase of the course. Instead, they were allowed to repeat the Darby Phase, along with 101 male candidates.

Officials at the base announced May 29 that none of the eight passed the Darby Phase on their second attempt.

Three of those females, along with five male soldiers, were invited to start over on day one.

The decisions regarding who stays and who goes are made during a leadership board that convenes at the end of each phase of course.

The counseling session looks at how these candidates were evaluated by their peers as well as by Ranger instructors, who use what are known as “spot reports” to identify both positive and negative performance. A spot report could be given for building an excellent terrain model or for falling asleep during non-rest period, according to school officials.

Positive spot reports cancel out negative spot reports, and a student can’t accumulate three negative spot reports during one phase.

Ranger School typically has a 50-percent graduation rate. During RAP week, candidates will have to complete a 10-kilometer, land-navigation course. Students have to find four out of five points in five hours -- 2.5 hours in the dark and 2.5 hours during daylight.

Following the land-nav course, students spend the rest of the afternoon crawling through the mud and negotiating other challenges on the Malvesti obstacle course.

The last hurdle of RAP is a 12-mile road march  that students have complete in less than three hours, carrying a rifle, fighting load carrier vest and a rucksack that weighs approximately 47 pounds, Ranger School officials maintain.

If the three make it past RAP week, they will once again have to spend long hours weighted down with infantry weapons and equipment on patrols through the thick forests of Fort Benning, and the dense swamps of Camp Rudder, Florida.

They will be expected lead patrols successfully, but they will also be graded on their ability to motivate their tired, hungry teammates through task after challenging task.

Ranger School candidates have to endure these challenges on two meals a day while getting three to four hours of sleep a night for eight weeks.

Senior Army leaders recently decided to allow females to attend the historically male-only course. The effort is a result of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's January 2013 directive that all services open combat-arms roles to women that so far have been reserved for men. The services have until 2016 to make this happen.

--Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com

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