Just a few days ago marked the 69th anniversary of women serving in the US Army. About the same time, the Army Chief of Staff General Odierno announced that a plan is in place to permit females to attend Ranger school.
The opinion storm that followed that announcement kind of depressed me. There are accusations that Ranger School in general is going to be "feminized", as in, made easier, either for the females or for everyone. Some say that Ranger School's mission of creating combat leaders will be compromised if they have to admit women who aren't in the Infantry. Others are just upset that the tradition of having only male Rangers will fade away.
In my opinion, the Army needs to move forward and needs to take a stronger stance on telling all these people that they can have their opinion, but it's messed up and unfair. Will females make Ranger School easier? I don't know about easier, but Ranger School adjusts it's course regularly to address current conflicts. And how do you explain the progression in the passing rate moving from below to 40% prior to 1980, to the current avergae of about 50%? Maybe Ranger School already is easier.
If the purpose of going through Ranger School is to create better small-unit leaders in combat, with the definition of combat changing all the time and the front lines virtually non-existent, shouldn't this opportunity be open to everyone, not just Infantry officers? In 2005 Ranger School was opened to every MOS not affected by the combat exclusion policy. That means there are already Signal and Quartermaster officers with a Ranger tab. Once the combat exclusion policy is lifted from females, permitting them to be in every combat unit if not combat MOSs, there is no reason to also exclude them from Ranger School.
Tradition is a great thing, and part of the reason I love being in the Army. But progress and the current mission need to be more important than keeping tradition. This was another argument that was used when Congress first considered admitting women to the service academies. Old Grads said that West Point was for creating combat leaders, but 15% of West Point grads had never served in the combat arms. They said the presence of females would change the dynamic, and maybe it has, but I can't imagine that a shifting dynamic away from an all-male environment is all that bad, but rather, prepares men to work with women on a regular basis, which a majority do in the Army. When I meet guys that are generally crude and disrespectful to women, they say things like, "sorry, I'm not used to having a female around." Well, in that case, maybe having a female around would make them a better person.
So, in my opinion, it's time to let women have the opportunity to succeed at Ranger School. I don't support any lowering of standards or extra special treatment, but I hope everything is fair. And that everyone who feels that training women to be a combat leader is the end of the world wakes up and realizes that maybe combat is a little different than they think.