WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Army is inviting female soldiers to apply to the gruelling Ranger school, officials said Monday, part of the military’s effort to open the door to women serving in ground combat. The prestigious Ranger school has been closed to women until now.
But the army wants to study the possibility of introducing female troops, officials said, reflecting new rules in the US military designed to permit women to work in more jobs closer to front lines.
To perform a one-time assessment, the army has the put out a call for female volunteers who – if the plan goes ahead – would enter the two-month course in the spring of 2015.
“The Ranger assessment course would train men and women together in order to help prepare institutions, schools and leaders for future integration decisions,” the army said in a statement. Opponents of lifting restrictions on women in combat argue that female soldiers lack the physical strength to perform the tasks required in an infantry unit at the front.
But officers said the standards for the course at Fort Benning in Georgia would not be altered for the female candidates.
“Current Ranger course standards will remain the same for all students; there will be no change to current performance requirements or graduation standards,” the army said. In the rugged woods of Georgia and the swamps of Florida, soldiers at the Ranger school are put through a demanding regimen, performing long-distance patrols, simulated raids and parachute jumps while under intense physical and psychological stress.