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Posted on Aug 14, 2012 Print this Article

"Gender-Diverse" Army Ranger School? - Part I

"Diversity Metrics" Would Degrade Elite Training

Note:  More information on this topic is available in Part II of this article, and in the Essential Resources section of this Website.

Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno surprised and dismayed infantry and Special Operations Forces veterans when he announced in May that he might send female officers to Ranger school.  Gen. Odierno did not claim that combat readiness in the Army would benefit from such a policy change.  Nor did the general try to claim that physical test requirements for women in Ranger training would remain the same as today's tough training for men. 

Instead, Gen. Odierno talked about career opportunities for women, noting that 90% of higher-ranking Army officers have earned the Ranger tab.  But Ranger training is not strictly required for promotion above the rank of  colonel.  In fact, General Odierno himself, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey, rose to the top ranks of the Army without earning a Ranger tab. 

There is no compelling need to gender-integrate the elite Ranger training program at Fort Benning, GA.  So what is the point of this radical and unnecessary change?  There are two apparent motivations for what is happening − neither of them justified.   

The first has to do with administration pressure and misplaced priorities driven by political correctness.  Instead of resisting harmful change, some Army officials perceive themselves to be in competition with the Marine Corps to achieve politically-correct goals.

On April 23, Marine Commandant General James Amos was the first to announce a controversial three-step plan to gather comparative data about physical capabilities of male and female Marines.  Among other things, Gen. Amos invited female volunteers to participate in the Infantry Officer Course (IOC) at Quantico, VA, as part of the research effort.  The test will not necessarily result in making women eligible for infantry battalion assignments.  Current regulations remain in place, for now.

Acting before thinking, Army General Odierno suggested that women might be invited to participate in Ranger training.  Indications are that this may have happened already, with the instructions that the women in question not be allowed to fail.  Guaranteed "success" in Ranger training would devalue the coveted tab, causing resentment to go up, and respect for Army leadership to go down even further than it is now.  [1]

The second motivation for changing the culture of Ranger training relates to what the Pentagon's 2011 Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) Report calls "diversity metrics" − deliberate increases in the number of women promoted to 3- and 4-star rank.

On February 9, Pentagon officials prominently cited the MLDC Report at a news conference announcing changes in the rules governing the assignment of women in or near "tip of the spear" direct ground combat battalions. 

Diversity Taken to Extremes

The MLDC Report strongly recommends that the "DoD and the Services eliminate combat exclusion policies for women."  (Executive Summaryp. xvii)  The full  MLDC Report, titled "From Representation to Inclusion: Diversity Leadership for the 21st-Century Military," further recommends that "diversity" become an "institutional priority" and a "core value" that requires a "standard set of strategic metrics and benchmarks to track progress toward the goal of officer and enlisted corps that reflects the eligible U.S. population across all service communities and ranks..."  (pp. 17-18)

"Equality Opportunity" (EO) professionals who largely wrote the MLDC Report admit that the new concept of diversity may be a "difficult concept to grasp" because it is not the same as the "EO-inspired mandate to be both color and gender blind."  Instead, the document repeatedly  advocates "diversity metrics."   These demographic benchmarks will have to met to achieve race- and gender-conscious "inclusion" − a concept that goes beyond EO, and "needs to become the norm." (p. 18) 

In August 2012, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jon Greenert told Navy Times that his own "diversity vision" would not involve quotas for favored groups.  On the contrary, this radical ideology, if fully implemented, would be a sharp departure from principled non-discrimination policies recognizing individual merit, which  were implemented in the armed forces long before the civilian world.  The result of "diversity metrics" would be deliberate discrimination against persons who are not part of the favored group. 

Feminist ideologues are not concerned about the consequences of watering down tough training that prepares men for direct ground combat (DGC).  Nor do they care about the physical injuries that other women may experience in a mistaken pursuit of "equality" on the battlefield. 

In their demands for career advancement as the highest priority, "diversity" advocates also disregard Defense Department data showing that for decades, female officers have been promoted at rates equal to or faster than men.  Artificial "metrics" will not change the fact that many women do not aspire to three- or four-star rank because of the family sacrifices required.   

SAPPER Engineering School Not Equivalent to Infantry Ranger Training

Some feminist/diversity advocates mistakenly suggest that tough Ranger training will remain unchanged, pointing to the experience of a few women who have succeeded in the Army's gender-neutral SAPPER training for combat engineers.  The shoulder-worn tabs awarded for both programs appear similar, but differences in the two programs far exceed similarities.   

In a July 8 article about the experiences of two women in the SAPPER school, the Washington Times reported that the success rate is about 50% for all, with only 47 women graduating from the course since 1999.  This miniscule number is not a convincing indicator of potential success for women in Ranger training. 

In fact, the Washington Times has reported that the minimum entry standards to qualify for Ranger training are higher than women's standards to succeed in basic training:

To graduate from boot camp, male soldiers must perform 35 pushups and 47 situps and run two miles in at least 16 minutes and 36 seconds.  Female troops are required to do 13 pushups and 43 situps and run two miles in 19 minutes and 42 seconds. 

The Times continued, "If women were to enter the all-male Ranger School...they would have to meet physical standards more rigorous than those for men in boot camp.  Would-be Rangers must be able to do at least 49 pushups and 59 situps, run five miles in less than 40 minutes and do six pullups from a dead hang."

And there's more.  "Ranger students then face a series of other tests, such as balancing on a beam, crawling across a rope and then dropping 30 feet into water." (Not all Ranger-qualified soldiers serve in the elite Ranger Regiment.)  [2]

Co-Ed Cage Fights and Combatives Not the Same as Hand-to-Hand Combat

"Amazon Myths" about women warriors date back to Greek mythology, but many are amplified by contemporary culture and liberal media.  The Los Angeles Times, for example, recently published a misleadingly-headlined article about female soldiers participating in a "cage fighting" tournament at Fort Hood, TX, last February.  Military combative matches involve hitting and wrestling an opponent to the floor, but not closed-fist punching or the wearing of heavy gear.

Three hundred men and 25 women competed for four days, sometimes in mixed-gender matches.  Three women were carried out on stretchers and only one, Staff Sgt. Jackelyn Walker, made it to the finals.  Contrary to the misleading headline, Sgt. Walker also was removed from the competition on a stretcher, her eyes rolled back after an artillery sergeant hit her hard.   

Upon release from the hospital Walker nevertheless declared, "We can be just as tough as the guys.  We can do it."  Really?  Even if Staff Sgt. Walker had become a tournament champion, the case would not be made for women in land combat. 

Army cage fight tournaments are popular, but some infantry veterans criticize them for not teaching soldiers how to fight in actual hand-to-hand combat.  As stated by instructors at the beginning of the program, grappling an opponent on the floor teaches trainees to take an enemy to the ground, gain a dominant position, and hold him down until a buddy can shoot or incapacitate the enemy.  This is not an efficient way to prevail in actual hand-to-hand combat.  

Combat missions that are still occurring in Afghanistan involve disciplined aggression, hitting first if necessary, physical strength, and endurance even while wounded.        

Cultural questions also arise when men are taught aggressive fighting tactics against female opponents.  Do we as a nation really want to desensitize and train men to hit women?  

Male soldier taught to brawl with women also attend classes to prevent sexual assaults.  Elsewhere, male Army drill instructors have been required to wear a fake "pregnancy belly" in classes for pregnant soldiers.  Adding to the cultural confusion are fabulist "women warrior" films, which disregard everything that is known about the physical differences between men and women.  

If Generals Odierno and Dempsey truly believe in "diversity" as a "strategic imperative," more important than all other considerations, both should resign and encourage the president to promote female officers in their place.  That way, sound priorities and the integrity of Ranger training would remain intact , and courageous volunteer women would be able to serve our country without being forced to act like men.

For more information on this subject, see Army Targets Ranger School for Gender-Based "Diversity" - Part II, and historic background articles posted in the Essential Resources section of this website.


* * * * * * * 

[1] Before proceeding with social experiments with Ranger training and direct ground combat, Gen. Odierno and all military leaders should consider the implications of recent Military Times survey findings showing a "Crisis of Confidence" in Army leaders.  The 2011 Army Leadership Survey released on July 30 found that only 26% of active Army leaders from sergeant to colonel said they believe the Army is headed in the right direction.  Some respondents' comments "generally cited the negative influence of government policy makers (outside the Army) as being detrimental to the future of the Army, and indicated that senior Army leaders themselves felt the need to bow to 'politically correct solutions' to please policy makers, or to 'play politics' within their own organizations."  (Army Times, Aug. 13, 2012, p. 26)

[2] A retired Army officer and friend of CMR who has been through Ranger training and deployed to Iraq several times disputes the notion that the 28-day SAPPER course and the 13-week  Ranger program are substantially the same:

"For the instructors (or anyone) to say that Sapper is harder than Ranger is sheer baloney.  I can't emphasize this enough.  It isn't a particularly important school outside the engineer community....Sapper is regarded across the Army as a watered down and shorter version of Ranger for engineers.  It is certainly tough, but...for anyone to imply that a couple of ladies who graduated Sapper are tougher than the all-male Rangers is simply lying or exaggerating for their own purposes.
"Only 10% of the total Army has Ranger tabs, then even fewer have Sapper tabs (perhaps 2%  - 5%).  This is a very small community.... Sapper isn't required to be a successful engineer officer in the same way Ranger is for infantrymen.  And the engineers don't send multitudes of women to the school with an astonishingly high success rate.  Very few go, and out of those, some succeed.  It is a self selecting group of women who are unusually fit and capable out of the general population.  I've known female Sappers who were admittedly in great shape, but would be considered mediocre as infantry officers (physically)." 

Posted on Aug 14, 2012 Print this Article