Women will be allowed to take part in the Army's Ranger training program for the first time, an Army spokesman said today.
"Secretary of the Army John McHugh approved the participation of both men and women in the spring 2015 Ranger course assessment," Lt. Col. Benjamin Garrett said in a statement. "The assessment will be conducted during Ranger Course 06-15, which is scheduled to begin on April 20, 2015. The course has approximately 60 women scheduled to participate. Those who meet the standards and graduate from the course will receive a certificate and be awarded the Ranger tab."
Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, has previously said Army leaders will monitor the pilot program.
"We're just going to let the statistics speak for themselves as we go through this," he said, in response to a question from a soldier at a virtual town hall-style meeting on Jan. 6. "The main thing I'm focused on is the standards remain the same"
He added: "We don't know if it's five people graduate, or 100 people graduate, or no one graduates. This is just a pilot to gain information for us to understand where we are, and then we'll take that data and make a determination on how we want to move forward."
Army officials say only about 40 percent of soldiers make it through the course.
NPR's Tom Bowman calls the program "grueling."
"The two-month course begins at Fort Benning, Ga., with events ranging from small-unit tactics to obstacle courses," he tells us. "Candidates then move to the mountains of north Georgia for rappelling and mountaineering, then head to the swamps of northern Florida, for small unit tactics in a jungle environment."
Bowman adds: "This is all part of an effort by Pentagon leaders to determine whether women can be assigned to ground combat units in both the Army and the Marine Corps. Service leaders will decide by this fall whether women can be assigned to those jobs. They could seek a waiver that would continue to bar women from infantry, armor and artillery jobs."