The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

All remaining female soldiers fail Ranger School’s ‘Darby Phase,’ can attempt again

Men and women are tested last month at Fort Benning, Ga., during the Army Ranger School’s grueling assessment course. (Photo by Sgt. Paul Sale/ Army)
Placeholder while article actions load

All eight female soldiers who survived the initial days of the first-ever Army Ranger School course to include women failed to make it to the second phase, but can still try again and pass, Army officials said Friday.

The women were attempting the famously difficult 62-day course as the Pentagon weighs which combat jobs women will be allowed to hold in the future. Army officials at Fort Benning, Ga., said that 115 men in the class had moved on to Ranger School’s second phase — mountaineering at Camp Merrill, Ga. — but that eight women and 101 men will be left behind at Fort Benning, Ga., to attempt Phase One again.

[Inside the Army’s effort to train and assess women for Ranger School]

Top Pentagon leaders dropped a longtime ban on women in combat units in January 2013, but gave the services until later this year to seek exceptions and provide justification.

Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, the top general at Fort Benning, Ga., said in a statement that he met with the students Thursday, and was impressed that those who can attempt the first phase again want to continue.

“They’re a strong group of soldiers who are working their way through the U.S. Army’s most physically and mentally demanding course,” said Miller, commanding general of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence.

About 35 male soldiers who attempted Phase One with the women failed to meet standards that would allow them to repeat, and will be sent back to their units, Army officials said.

The first phase of Ranger School is known as the Darby Phase, and it focuses heavily on leading patrols successfully. Students also must tackle an obstacle course known as the Darby Queen at Fort Benning, and receive grades from Ranger instructors and their peers. Those who do not pass at least 50 percent of graded patrols are held back, a process known as “recycling.”

[In major step, eight women make it through Ranger School’s grueling ‘RAP Week‘]

The soldiers held back in the Darby Phase failed for a variety of reasons, including mistakes in patrolling and problems observed in spot checks by Ranger instructors and in peer evaluations, said Col. David Fivecoat, the commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade that oversees the school.

“The vast majority, however, failed several opportunities as a squad leader or team leader to lead a patrol successfully,” he said. “All the recycles have been checked by medics to ensure that they do not have serious injuries.”

No breakdown was provided on why each of the women failed to complete Phase One.

The Ranger class began April 20 with 19 women and 380 men. They where whittled down to eight women and 184 men after the initial, grueling four-day Ranger Assessment Phase, known as “RAP Week.” Historically, about 75 percent of students who make it through RAP Week have eventually graduated Ranger School. The process can take months, especially for students who are “recycled” in each phase.