“Today, Secretary Carter announced his decision to fully integrate all positions, career fields, and specialties to women,” SOCOM Commander General Joe Votel said in an official announcement on December 3rd, 2015. “I want to take this opportunity to state that I stand behind Secretary Carter’s decision, and fully support opening all special operations specialties and units to female service members.”
SOCOM was given the opportunity to submit an exception to the new decision to integrate females into the force, but General Votel chose not to.
I want to firmly state right up front that that as we move forward with integration, we will absolutely not lower, raise, or create multiple sets of standards for special operations,” General Votel continued. “If candidates meet our time tested and scientifically validated standards and if they have proven that they have the physical, intellectual, professional, and character attributes that are so critical to special operations than we will welcome them into our ranks.”
However, documents obtained by SOFREP regarding the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP) and physical training standards within the regiment itself prove that General Votel’s words are false and hollow.
Female Ranger School students act as the test bed for the 75th Ranger Regiment
Ranger School is the Army’s premier leadership school, focusing on producing the best leaders possible who can perform in high-stress and combat situations while making tactical decisions at a moment’s notice. The school has been at the center of the national spotlight for some time following the graduation of the very first female Ranger-qualified soldiers. Ranger School is a training and leadership school that is separate from the 75th Ranger Regiment, the latter of which is a special operations combat unit.
Was this just a breaking of the glass ceiling and reversal of the cultural patriarchy in the armed forces, or something more? A transparent integration seemed like the best initial option for full support from both prior Ranger School graduates and the cadre of RTB (Ranger Training Brigade). This was not the case. Prior to the first integrated course, an unnamed general told a group of his subordinates, “A woman will graduate Ranger School.” The initial females were also allowed to train under SFC Robert Hoffnagle, receiving everything from nutritional instruction to onsite land navigation courses, and were allowed to recycle over and over again.
The dispute regarding Ranger School standards came as the various services were told to report to the Pentagon before Sept. 30 as to whether they would seek “exceptions” for certain military jobs to the 2013 directive issued by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to open up all military occupational specialties to those women who could qualify. So was this just a preemptive power play to demonstrate the “do as I say, not as I do” workings of the top brass? No MOS exemptions were filed, and now we have the first female coming to RASP within the next few months.
This was not just a way to integrate females into the various career-building schools that were, up to a point, only offered to males. This was a predetermined test to see if the top generals could make this work without having blowback directed at them, if they could get the last OER bullet for political gain, and so they could wash their hands of the blame for degrading SOF beyond anything we have known up to this point.
This was careerism at its finest.
75th Ranger Regiment selection standards to be gender-normed
SOFREP has obtained a document that originated with Command Sergeant Major Robert Haynie at the Regimental Special Troops Battalion (RSTB) and which lays out the new physical training standards for RASP and the 75th Ranger Regiment. This document clearly shows that, contrary to General Votel’s statements, multiple sets of standards are being created. Even within these multiple sets of standards, some are being scaled to account for age and gender. The 75th Ranger Regiment Public Affairs Office was contacted for comment on this story, but never returned our call.
As this document clearly shows, there is one standard to be eligible to attend RASP, another (higher) standard in RASP, but then for soldiers actually in the 75th Ranger Regiment, there is yet a third standard to be met. The Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) includes push-ups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run graded on a sliding scale based on gender and age. However, the standards for the APFT to get into the the Ranger Regiment and to remain there have always been locked in without any curve in the grading matrix. Previously, RASP students were expected to score 80 percent on the APFT on the 17-to-21-year-old age range, regardless of the Ranger’s actual age.
That Rangers have always had to score 80 percent on the APFT can be seen on the Ft. Benning website (below), as well as on numerous open-source documents. Realistically, 80 percent was nothing more than the bare minimum, as Rangers were expected to achieve 100 percent on the APFT, especially if they wanted to go to Ranger School and get promoted in rank.
The new standards laid out here show that Ranger students only need to score 60 percent to attend RASP, which is gender-normed. Male and female Ranger students do not need to meet the same standards, once again showing that there are, in fact, two sets of standards being used. Here is what 60 percent on the APFT looks like broken down between genders in the 17-to-21-year-old age bracket:
15:54 two-mile run
18:54 two-mile run
However, to actually graduate from RASP, soldiers will have to meet one standard that is gender and age neutral—completing 69 sit-ups, 58 push-ups, six chin-ups, a five-mile run in 40 minutes, and a 12-mile ruck march in three hours. This is not the APFT, but rather a somewhat more comprehensive physical test devised by the Ranger Regiment. Still, the standards are made perfectly clear for RASP in the document.
Horrifically, these standards are then actually dropped, with Rangers expected to show a poorer performance when they become members of the Regiment. Once they join the 75th Ranger Regiment, these soldiers are then again expected to take the APFT and only achieve 60 percent, scaled for age and gender.
Other events, like the Ranger Fitness Test and the Ranger Athlete Warrior Assessment test, are listed, however, there are no standards given. What is the threshold that these Rangers are supposed to meet on these events? If there isn’t a standard, then these tests are quite pointless.
The Army would have us believe that a female Ranger who can only do 19 push-ups will be able to wear 80 pounds of gear while climbing around mountains in Afghanistan and getting into firefights with the Taliban.
What these three sets of standards represent (some scaled for age and gender) is that the Regiment is gaming the system, essentially conducting social engineering to confuse the issues involved, as the press is unlikely to be able to break down or understand the different standards. Officially, there is one standard in RASP, and this will allow the Ranger Regiment, SOCOM, and the Department of the Army to claim that there is one bar Ranger students have to make it over while the rest of us are oblivious to the truth.
The sad reality is that RASP itself is also being engineered from the inside out to pave the way for female Rangers—the same way it happened in Ranger School.
Ranger Assessment and Selection Program: Dumbed down for the video-game generation
RASP has been systematically dumbed down and the Ranger training cadre have been castrated as basic discipline mechanisms and tools have been stripped from them, with some instructors facing draconian disciplinary measures for physically correcting privates with push-ups, flutter kicks, and other exercises. SOFREP described the plummeting standards in RASP as far back as 2012.
About a month and a half ago, a female JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) staffer arrived at Fort Benning to begin shadowing the RASP instructors. It was an unofficial position, but she has been present with the last three RASP classes to ensure that the course curriculum remains the same now as it does when the first female student arrives at RASP in May.
Sadly, the standards were already low when this female JSOC staff member arrived, as RASP students were not allowed to quit, or be failed for land navigation, failed the 12-mile ruck march, and even failed the APTF, but still graduated from the course. The bar had been set very low, low enough to ensure that women could graduate from RASP regardless of whether or not they met the standards.
This was pre-engineered to give a sense of equality, yet nothing about the implementation of females into special operations has been equal. When RASP cadre are informed that if they even think of disagreeing with the inclusion of female Rangers, they’d be committing career suicide; when they are forced to sit through multiple briefs outlining the integration process, yet have no input on how this could be done more transparently and effectively; there are bigger issues at hand than just fighting for more females to get opportunity for career advancement.
Ranger sergeants used to proudly ask their men what the difference was between Army standards and Ranger standards, telling them that the difference was, “Our standards are enforced.” Today, there is still a standard, but it is no longer enforced.
What is the most likely outcome when standards are systematically deteriorated in Ranger Regiment and unprepared soldiers end up at the tip of the spear, ready at a moment’s notice to be thrust into an unknown and unforeseeable conflict? The powers that be, the ones making these decisions with little insight and even less experience, are not going to be the Rangers on the ground picking up the pieces of a failed combat operation.
They will not be the ones knocking on the door of yet another family of an American who fell in a foreign land. They will not be the ones dealing with the guilt of executing high-priority missions that fail because of political correctness manifest in the form of under-qualified boots on the ground tasked with executing what few in this nation are capable of doing.
The 75th Ranger Regiment is not the place for showboating or spotlighting faux gender equality that lowers standards. Placing unqualified personnel in combat positions for the sake of political correctness (combat history has taught us) will just get people killed unnecessarily.
Zachary Oja served two combat deployments to Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and competed in the Best Ranger Competition in 2012. Jack Murphy served in 3rd Ranger Battalion and in 5th Special Forces Group, he is the editor-in-chief of SOFREP.com.