A pair of female soldiers will be graduating from the Ranger School to become the first women to pass the premier leadership course of the Army and one of the most exhausting and challenging training programs within the entire military.
The success of the two women, along with the experiences of the 17 other women that are still in Ranger School, will play a part in the upcoming decision of the Army on whether to keep women from becoming combat infantrymen and taking on other roles in the military that were previously off-limits.
Only around three percent of Army soldiers in active duty have passed the Ranger program, but doing so has been seen as an unofficial requirement in many infantry commands. In addition, it is a hard prerequisite for a solder to lead troops in the 75th Ranger Regiment of the Army, which is the premier light infantry unit.
Passing the Ranger program could also boost the careers of soldiers, even those who are not serving within combat units.
However, under the current rules of the military, women are not allowed to serve as tank officers or infantry or join the 75th Ranger Regiment, even the two that are ready to graduate from Ranger School.
This is the first year that women were allowed to enroll in the Ranger program. The two unnamed women, both from West Point and who will be graduating from the Ranger School on Aug. 21, were able to complete nine weeks of intensive physical training over days that lasted for 20 hours each. The program started at Fort Benning before moving to Georgia mountains and then to the Florida Panhandle swamps. In total, the soldiers in the program hiked about the same distance from Boston to New York City while carrying heavy packs.
The Ranger School opens every year with around 4,000 officers and soldiers signing up, but only two out of every five are able to graduate.
Back in 2013, the Pentagon said that it would be lifting its ban on placing women into combat situations, with the Army and other branches given until Jan. 1 of next year for a decision on which roles they would like women to be off-limits from.