Ranger School was opened to women for the first time ever starting Monday as the Pentagon assesses which new combat assignments it should allow women to hold. Army officials said 381 men and 19 women started on Day 1, meaning 48.3 percent of men and 42.1 percent of women made it through RAP Week. Both are within historic norms for Ranger School, Army officials said.
RAP Week is seen as the largest hurdle by many to graduating the 62-day Ranger School course. About 75 percent of the students who make it through eventually go on to graduate, Ranger School officials said. It can take months, however: Students can fail individual portions of the the course multiple times, and get “recycled” into a later group.
Any woman who graduates will be allowed to wear the Army’s prestigious Ranger tab, but not permitted to served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, the elite force that performs raids and other special operations. But Ranger School graduates have long served in other parts of the Army, and are considered among the service’s best soldiers.
The Army announced in January that it was opening Ranger School as part of a Defense Department directive to research more fully integrating women into the service. It required any woman attending Ranger School to pass an existing 17-day preparatory course known as the Ranger Training and Assessment Course (RTAC). It’s run by the Army National Guard at Fort Benning, and attended by more than 5,000 prospective Ranger students annually.
Four RTAC classes integrated with women were conducted this year, with some men and women who failed attending more than one. Twenty women ultimately qualified to take on Ranger School, with 19 electing to continue and one withdrawing before the course began Monday, Army officials said.
Ranger School — and RAP Week — began Monday with the Ranger physical fitness test, which requires each soldier to complete at least 49 push-ups, 59-sit-ups, six chin-ups and a five-mile run in under 40 minutes. Three women and 78 men in in the class failed it.
The initial phases of Ranger School will continue at Fort Benning. Later parts include mountain warfare training at Camp Merrill, about 65 miles north of Atlanta in Dahlonega, Ga., and swamp training around Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.