A team of women training to become adviser/observers at the Army Ranger School scale a tower in November. (U.S. Army photo)

The Army isn’t saying yet whether women will be allowed to attend its elite, all-male Army Ranger School next year, but all signs point toward the service moving toward it.

The latest signal: 31 women selected recently to become “observer/advisers” in case the service allows female Ranger students will report to the school in January, said Col. David Fivecoat, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade that oversees the school. That’s around the same time that Army Chief of Staff Gen.  Raymond T. Odierno is expected to announce a decision.

The review is part of a broader and controversial Defense Department effort to integrate women into more combat assignments in the military. Service officials have until 2016 to seek exemptions for certain jobs.

Fivecoat told Checkpoint the women will go through a weeks-long training programs, and observe men going through Ranger School from January through March. That would happen ahead of female students attending in the spring, should Odierno give them the green light to attend.

“We’re doing prudent planning, like any military organization,” Fivecoat said. “We’re ready to do whatever the chief tells us to.”

Forty-six women went to Fort Benning, Ga., in November interested in becoming “observer/advisers,” and the Army selected 31 one of them. They include 11 officers and 20 enlisted non-commissioned officers, the colonel said. They have gone back to their regular units in the Army, but will be back next month.

Interest among women in attending Ranger School has been significant. As noted by Army Times on Friday, the service will limit the amount of female soldiers who can attend next year to 160, and had significantly more volunteers than that. The course runs 11 times per year, with between 300 and 400 soldier attending at a time.

Ranger School remains one of the military’s most difficult. Fivecoat said that 3,354 reported for it in 2013, and 1,506 — about 45 percent — passed. About four out of five soldiers who wash out do so in the first four days, known as Ranger Assessment Phase.

The course itself is 62 days long, and includes three phases. The first is at Fort Benning. The second takes place in the mountains of Camp Frank D. Merrill in Dahlonega, Ga., and the third occurs in swamps at Camp James E. Rudder at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. If women take the course and pass next year, they will be allowed to wear the Army’s prestigious Ranger tab, but will not join the 75th Ranger Regiment.