The long awaited answer to whether women will be officially allowed in combat zones might be one step closer as of the new year. The U.S. Army announced that they will be assessing whether women would be admitted to the Elite Special Forces of Army Ranger School. This assessment may bring equal opportunity for women in the military.
According to The Army Times, the decision will be announced in January, the one-time integration would act as an assessment for future efforts.
Previously, women have mostly been in support roles for the military. This can be tracked as far back as to the American Revolution where many women worked as nurses, water bearers, cooks, laundresses and saboteurs, according to the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation. It wasn’t until 1901 when women were officially recognized as a part of the military with the establishment of The Army Nurse Corps. Seven years later, the Navy Army Corps followed adding its own. Nearly 50 years later, in 1948, The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act allowed women to serve in the Regular and Reserve forces. Times were changing.
And while many women in the military found themselves in combat zones, whether through transport or other means, they were not officially allowed into many high risk MOSs including the infantry, special forces, combat controllers, submarines, mine warfare ships, artillery battalions, reconnaissance units and fleet anti-terrorism security teams just to name a few.
If selected, female soldiers who successfully complete U.S .Army Ranger School will receive recognition and be authorized to wear the Ranger tab; however, they still would not be allowed in certain MOS’s as those positions are still pending whether they will be opened to women.
Many are hoping the assessment, the first ever for the elite force, might act as the opening of those long-closed doors for women in high risk MOS’s.
Male and female soldiers would train together and, according to the Army, the standards will remain the same. The two-month Ranger school has a graduation rate of about 50 percent. Entrance into the school consists of physical requirements of at least 49 pushups in two minutes, at least 59 sit-ups in two minutes, at least six pull-ups, and a five-mile run in 40 minutes or less. Training also includes survival assessments.
Equality for women on all platforms has been a continuous battle within the military. The assessment could bring women one step closer. Change and controversy, however, go hand-in-hand. The historic question of whether women can handle the physical and mental stress of such positions rises in every corner. Many have already asked if the Army will lower its standards. While the Army stands by the statement all training will remain the same, responses to that already reflect the “can’t do” attitude. Personal hygiene is a reoccurring concern as well.
One, by this being the first question asked, it is assumed the standards would need to change. Two, the term “standards” should be clearly considered. If two would do things differently but achieve the same goal in the same amount of time with the same resources, etc., have the standards been lowered or fashioned?
Equal opportunity can be looked through the lens of other examples around us. Take, for example, students who were enrolled in U.S. elementary schools who were not taught English at home due to immigrant parents were once enrolled in Special Education classes. Throughout time, however, the system advanced to recognize the language barrier was not a disadvantage. The students were just as capable as their Native English Speaker counterparts, they just needed (equal) standards fashioned to get them to be competitive.
The assessment The U.S. Army is opening is another step toward victory for women in the Armed Forces. Let us hope that equality can be achieved for all.