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The Army’s elite Ranger Regiment will soon have its first female soldier

A U.S. soldier climbs a caving ladder during the Urban Assault Course at the Best Ranger Competition 2016 at Fort Benning, Ga., on April 15, 2016. (Sgt. Brian Kohl/U.S. Army)

A female soldier is expected to join the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment this spring, service officials said, a first as the U.S. military begins to integrate women into its Special Operations forces.

The woman, whose identity was withheld by the Army, became in December the first female soldier to pass the service’s Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP), which is held at Fort Benning, Ga., and designed to weed out soldiers who are not capable of meeting the Ranger regiment’s intense missions and demands.

The Army declined to release the soldier’s rank, but she was one of three women who went to a 21-day version of the course known as RASP 2 that was established for troops who are staff sergeants and above. It includes training on special tactics, equipment and missions that make the regiment unique, according to the service. The other version of RASP is eight weeks long, designed for lower-ranking enlisted soldiers, and teaches small-unit tactics, medical treatment and other skills needed on the battlefield.

“Throughout the course all candidates will be screened to ensure that only the best Soldiers are chosen for service in the Ranger Regiment,” according to an Army recruiting website. “Regardless of the course, all candidates must meet the course requirements in order to serve in the Ranger Regiment.”

Army Lt. Col. Robert Bockholt, a spokesman for Army Special Operations Command, said the woman will join the regiment, considered to be the Army’s premier light-infantry raid force, after completing her assignment with her current unit. The news was first reported Wednesday night by the military website Task & Purpose, which said the woman is an officer who serves in a combat support role.

Women have previously served in units that were considered “attached” to Ranger operations, most famously in Cultural Support Teams that deployed to Afghanistan and sent female soldiers on overnight raids to search women and collect information. But no women has ever considered a part of the regiment. No women have yet passed indoctrination courses for other ground Special Operations forces, such as the Navy SEALs and the Raiders of Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

The new assignment will come more than a year after outgoing Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter opened all combat jobs to women who can meet the requirements in place to hold them. That occurred after three women graduated from the Army’s grueling Ranger School at Fort Benning in 2015, a step that was often cited by advocates for full gender integration ahead of Carter’s decision.

Completing Ranger School is not always a requirement to join the 75th Ranger Regiment, but it is foremost considered a leadership school for the service members who attend and often includes students who have no intention of joining the regiment.

Previous coverage:
Will the Army open its elite Ranger Regiment to women. A controversial decision awaits.

History made: The Army’s Ranger School will graduate its first female students

The first women to complete Ranger School blazed grueling trails