Army Under Secretary: Female Rangers Will Not Become a Recruiting Tool

In this Aug. 21, 2015, file photo, Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, center, and Capt. Kristen Griest, right, pose for photos with other female West Point alumni after an Army Ranger school graduation ceremony at Fort Benning, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
In this Aug. 21, 2015, file photo, Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, center, and Capt. Kristen Griest, right, pose for photos with other female West Point alumni after an Army Ranger school graduation ceremony at Fort Benning, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The U.S. Army's new wave of recruiting ads will show soldiers firing mortars, launching drones and clearing rooms. But don't look for them to feature women earning Ranger Tabs or joining the infantry for the first time in the service's history.

In early October, the Army's senior leadership announced the launch of a new recruiting strategy designed to energize accessions after it became apparent that the service had fallen short of meeting its annual recruiting goal for the last year.

The new strategy will add hundreds of recruiters and strengthen recruiting efforts in 22 major cities. The Army also recently launched a new ad campaign dubbed "Warriors Wanted," which features short, dynamic videos of soldiers in action on social media and cable networks.

But the Army's new recruiting strategy so far does not include a plan to showcase any of the 19 female soldiers who have graduated from Ranger School, a grueling 62-day infantry leadership course notorious for pushing students to their physical and mental limits, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told Military.com on an Oct. 30 recruiting trip to Philadelphia.

Earning the coveted black-and-gold Ranger Tab is an honor that has eluded many male soldiers since the course was founded more than 60 years ago. On average, only about 40 percent of soldiers graduate from Ranger School.

McCarthy said he was proud of the successes women have achieved under the Army's gender integration effort, the result of a 2013 directive from then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that required the services to open all combat jobs to women.

"The thing that is wonderful about this experience is we have produced 19 female graduates [of Ranger School]; they have all met or exceeded the standard of the toughest combat leadership school in the world," said McCarthy, a graduate of the course who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment during the early days of combat in Afghanistan.

"And what we have done here is increase the pool of talented people as opposed to meeting a gender-integration target. It's one of the things I love about the Army. We don't spike the football. We don't have to."

McCarthy met the most recent female Ranger School graduate -- Capt. Sidney Jaques of the 75th Ranger Regiment -- at the October 26 Ranger graduation ceremony at Fort Benning, Georgia.

"I didn't go out of my way, but we walked down there on the wood chips, congratulating everybody and I saw the deputy commander of the Regiment, who I know, and he grabbed me and said, 'hey, I want you to meet her,' " McCarthy said. "I went over I gave her a coin, I put my arm around her, got a photo. And I did it with ... about 60 of the 100-some-odd graduates."

McCarthy acknowledged conflicting perspectives in how much public attention to give a soldier like Jaques.

"Part of me says, 'well, we could put her on a commercial,' and the other part of me says 'well, why would I do that?' " he said. "If anything, you know what I want to do with her -- I want to put her on an airplane and send her on a deployment."

In addition to Ranger School, 394 women have graduation from the initial training courses for infantry and armor assignments. Of the number, 65 female soldiers have graduated from Armor Basic Officer Leadership Course and 52 have graduated from Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, according to Megan Reed, a spokeswoman for Training and Doctrine Command.

On the enlisted side, 167 females have graduated from infantry one-station unit training, 67 from armor crewman OSUT and 43 from cavalry scout OSUT, Reed said.

As of Oct. 15, the Army has 830 female soldiers in infantry, armor and fire-support specialist occupations, according to Elizabeth Chamberlain, a spokeswoman for the Army.

One of the Army's 'Warriors Wanted' ads does show women in a combat role. The Oct. 29 video begins with a female soldier riding in a vehicle calling for an artillery fire mission into a radio and then cuts to soldiers loading and firing howitzers.

But it's a sharp contrast from a recent Marine Corps recruiting ad from 2017 that starts with a young girl in grade school and shows how her "fighting spirit" guided her through the challenges of combat training in the Marines to the harsh realities of the battlefield.

So far at least two female Marines have graduated the punishing Infantry Officers Course at Quantico, Virginia out of the 40 who have volunteered to take on the 13-week course since it was first opened to women in 2012. The second female completed the course in June, closely following the first female to graduate the course in September 2017.

In November of last year, the Marine Corps changed the significance of the exhausting combat endurance test that occurs on the first day of IOC from a pass/fail requirement to an unscored event.

The backbreaking test, which requires Marines to march miles carrying more than 80 pounds of equipment and complete an obstacle course that includes 20-foot rope climbs and an eight-foot bar obstacle, stopped many of the females from advancing beyond the first day. Top Marine officials have emphasized that the change to the course had nothing to do with the female officers attempting it.

A female Marine sergeant recently completed the highly competitive Phase Two of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command's Assessment and Selection course but was passed over for selection to continue on with MARSOC training. She is now leaving the Marine Corps.

Meanwhile, Army senior leaders as well as Ranger instructors have maintained that the standards for Ranger School have remained unchanged.

In Aug. 2015, then Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, made history by becoming the first women to successfully complete the Ranger course.

During its three-phases, Ranger students learn how to operate in three environments -- woodlands in Fort Benning, mountainous terrain in Dahlonega, Georgia, and coastal swamp at Camp Rudder in Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Neither Griest nor Haver earned their tabs in their first attempt at the course. Like many of their fellow male students, they were invited to start over after failing the first phase of the course twice.

About 34 percent of students who enter Ranger School recycle at least one phase of the course, adding to the student's physical and mental fatigue, Army officials say. Traditionally, only 25 percent make it through Ranger School without any recycles, according to school officials.

"This school damn near killed me 20 years ago," McCarthy said.

But McCarthy said the Army made a conscious decision that it would not turn the successes of these women into a marketing tool for the Army.

"It's very hard to do because we would love to do that, [and] a part of me would love to do that, the other part of me says 'it's flat out wrong," he said.

"These women don't want to be treated differently ... they just want to do the job."

-- Military.com's Hope Hodge Seck contributed to this story.

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

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