For the first time, women will graduate from the U.S. Army’s prestigious Ranger School, officials announced on Monday.
Two female officers have completed training in what is considered one of the most difficult military programs, and will graduate on Friday, alongside their male classmates, the Army said. Their names weren't released. According to NPR, both are lieutenants who attended West Point.
The two-month Army Ranger School program, founded in 1950, is a physically intensive training that aims to mold participants into elite military fighters. It takes place in the hills of Fort Benning, Georgia, and in the swamps of Florida, where trainees hone combat and leadership skills while learning how to survive with little sleep and food.
According to Army statistics, about 40 percent of male soldiers who enter the program graduate. Only in January did Army officials permit women to participate on an experimental basis.
While the two female graduates will be allowed to wear the Ranger tab on their uniforms, which signifies completion of the program, they remain barred from other military opportunities open to men. Army officials said women cannot try out for the Army’s Ranger Regiment or serve in infantry or front-line combat positions, which are usual career paths for graduates of the Ranger program.
The Pentagon has indicated this may change, as it re-evaluates the role of women in the military. For example, each branch of the military is considering whether to allow more women to serve in combat positions and elite programs, such as the Army Rangers or Navy SEALs. This mandate came in 2013, after then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted an official ban on women serving in combat roles. Many women already were fighting on the front lines in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has ordered that all branches of the military allow women to serve in front-line combat positions and elite programs by next year. Military officials have emphasized they expect men and women to be treated and evaluated equally in training programs.
"If you meet the standards that we've established, then you should be able to perform in that [military occupational specialty]. And I think that's where we're headed,” outgoing Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno said last week.
UPDATE: Aug. 18 -- According to The Washington Post, the two graduates have been identified as 1st Lt. Kristen Griest and Capt. Shaye Haver.