- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The U.S. Army on Wednesday announced that it would open up its rigorous Ranger School to all qualified soldiers regardless of sex.

The grueling courses had only been open to men until April, when the Army ran a sex-integrated assessment of the course to determine whether and how to integrate women in more combat roles in the military.

Nineteen women started the course on April 20. Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to complete Ranger School, earning the distinctive black-and-gold tab at their graduation on Aug. 21.

One other female soldier from the original group of 19 is still working to earn the tab and advanced to the third and final Swamp Phase of Ranger School last weekend, the Army Times reported.

In its announcement Wednesday, the Army said the course would remain open to all qualified personnel regardless of sex.

“We must ensure that this training opportunity is available to all soldiers who are qualified and capable, and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best soldiers to meet our nation’s needs,” Army Secretary John McHugh said in a statement.

SEE ALSO: Ranger School officer blasts rumors about female graduates in Facebook post

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley added: “The Army’s number one priority is combat readiness, and leader development is a function of combat readiness. Giving every qualified soldier the opportunity to attend the Ranger Course, the Army’s premier small unit leadership school, ensures we are maintaining our combat readiness today, tomorrow and for future generations.”

The decision to open Ranger School comes as the services approach the deadline to request exemptions from the Defense Department for some of its all-male military occupational specialties.

A 2013 Pentagon directive says the services must open all combat jobs to women by next year or explain to the Pentagon’s civilian leadership why any must stay closed. Reportedly, only the Marines are considering resistance to total sex integration.

Regarding the Rangers, the Army has said it will not water down its standards for entrance into, and performance during, the demanding training school. Other military branches have spoken similarly regarding their elite units such as the Navy’s SEALs.

Opponents of mixed-sex military units — many of them retired — are skeptical the Pentagon will keep that vow, noting that the service branches made similar promises during previous openings of military positions to women but reversed themselves under political pressure when not enough women would pass.

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