Wednesday, August 19, 2015

First Women Graduates in Army Ranger School History

The United States Army’s esteemed Ranger School will confer Ranger patches to 1st Lt. Kristen Griest and Capt. Shaye Haver, the first two women to successfully complete the elite and rigorous program in its history. Both lieutenants are also alumni of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The Army Ranger School was originally founded in 1950 and is known to be one of the most physically and psychologically demanding regimens that any soldier could be tasked with. The two month program is set in two different locales, the first in Fort Benning, Georgia, and the second in the swamplands of Florida. It is in these two locations that the Ranger hopefuls build upon their combat and leadership skills while navigating through intense sleep and food deprivation.  Completion is an admirable feat and the Army reports that only about 40% of male participants are able to graduate rendering the two lieutenants success even more remarkable. Though over 60 years old, it was not until January of this year that the Army designed an experimental project to introduce women into the Ranger School.
Though their graduation is capturing headlines and is being praised by many, it is important to keep in mind that while Lt. Griest and Capt. Haver will have the Army Ranger distinction bestowed upon them, they still face certain obstacles based solely on their gender. The two women cannot take advantage of a myriad of military opportunities that are open to their fellow male graduates. Some of these programs include participating in the Army’s Ranger Regiment or service in infantry and front-line combat. While former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the combat ban on women officially in 2012 and the United States Navy lifted their ban on women joining the Navy SEALs, women who choose to serve and demonstrate excellence in their commitment to such service are still denied access to some of the military’s most elite programs.
It is important that the United States military design the programs of each respective branch to be as meritocratic as possible and to afford servicewomen opportunities to advance in their military career by virtue of their competency and talent. Women like Lt. Griest and Capt. Haver are some of the best soldiers our military has to offer and should not be inhibited in ways that their counterparts aren’t simply because of their gender, when they have already proven their capabilities. It is equally important to realize that while women can be some of the military’s greatest assets, women also face unique challenges during their service with inadequate protections in place. Such problems that have grown virtually systemic in military culture include sexual assault in which servicewomen are victim to the most with not enough having been done in terms of preventative measures as well as in terms of treatment (lack of treatment contributes greatly to alarmingly high suicide rates amongst women veterans.)