A female soldier climbs to the top of an obstacle at Fort Benning, Ga., as part of observer/adviser selection training to support a potential Ranger course assessment involving women next year. (U.S. Army photo)

The Army will allow female soldiers to attend its grueling Ranger School for the first time in April, service officials announced Thursday. Preparation for the decision has been underway for months, but the reaction immediately exposed the divide in the military over where women should serve in combat units. And it isn’t always pretty.

On one side: Troops who believe that if women can meet the requirements, they should be able to fill the job. On the other: Those who say they are sick and tired of what they see as social experimentation in the Armed Forces.

Army officials said in a statement Thursday that Army Secretary John McHugh approved the participation of women in the spring 2015 Ranger School course assessment beginning April 20. It will include about 60 women. Those who meet the standards and graduate will be awarded the Army’s coveted Ranger tab, but will not be allowed to serve in the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, which remains closed to female soldiers. The data collected, however, will play a role as the Army grapples with whether to open some jobs currently closed to women — infantryman, for example — in the future.

The news was first reported by Army Times.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said in November that the service expected between 70 and 80 women to apply to attend the school. They will participate on a one-time basis as part of a broader effort across the Defense Department to integrate women into more combat assignments in the military. Service officials have until 2016 to seek exemptions for certain jobs.

Here’s a sampling of tweets from veterans, soldiers and others reacting to the news that the Army will allow women to attend Ranger School in the spring:

On Reddit, a lively conversation jumped off Thursday night after the news was first published. While many apparent veterans and soldiers there raised concerns about the Army softening, others pointed out that the Army integrated its Sapper School, which trains combat engineers, in 2002 with no major incidents.

“Female Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen have proven themselves in combat for the last decade and a half,” said one soldier, _MightyTiki_. “They can hold their own. Open the doors and let them try, nothing but respect.”

Related research is ongoing at the Marine Corps’s Infantry Officer Course. Female officers there have been allowed to attempt the demanding class since 2012, but none of the 26 who have attempted it have passed. The most recent two to attempt it failed to make the cut earlier this month, Marine Corps Times reported Friday.

Previously on Checkpoint:
Female advisers will report to all-male Army Ranger School in January

Army chooses 31 women for potential Ranger School experiment