Let’s get one thing straight: I respect a tab-wearing Ranger. I revere the person like I do those who wear the U.S. Navy SEAL trident. I have said this before: No matter what the person becomes later in life after earning the trident and the tab, no matter what a worthless piece of excrement they might become, you can never take away the fact that those people at one time in their lives endured the Hell on Earth required to wear those accolades.
Now, if I see a right-sleeve, Ranger-scroll-wearing badass, I would likely walk barefoot over flaming broken glass to shake his hand. If we are not all on the same page, then I recommend reading a few pages on the Ranger assault on the Haditha Dam in Iraq. A Ranger force of 154 seized and held the dam for five days until being reinforced. In that time, they were shelled by over 350 rounds of 155mm howitzer and countless RPGs, and endured countless attacks of over 100 Iraqi insurgents at a time. When it was over, 28 howitzers, 10 mortar tubes, 23 AAA guns, 29 tanks, and an estimated 400 Iraqi troops had been destroyed. The Rangers suffered no mortalities.
A close personal friend of mine from the Delta force, Ironhead, left the Unit to become a command sergeant major (CSM) in the 75th Ranger Regiment. There, he found himself on Haditha Dam with an SR-25 laying waste to ragheads below. As he recounted to me, a couple of his young Rangers approached and asked, “CSM, what are we doing here by ourselves?”
Ironhead replied, “Well, we’re deep behind enemy lines, we took a target that is way too big for us, and now we have to hold it.”
“We are performing a Ranger legacy task,” replied one of the Rangers.
Now the unthinkable has happened. Women have endured and graduated U.S. Army Ranger School. Has the world gone mad? But wait, what has really happened? I’d like to offer what I perceive to be the upside and the downside of the argument of females in Ranger School, and a “food for thought” measure of admonishment for the near future regarding this subject.
The immediate reactive thought that comes to the minds of most of us special operations elitists is, “WTF happened to the standards? They must have lowered the standards. Yes, that’s it, they lowered the standards. We want answers and we want them now!”
The media is quick to supply us with those answers in the form of promising quotes from military high command:
This test is part of a broader step by the Pentagon to remove its historic ban on women serving in “ground combat” jobs throughout the military by the end of this year. It is highly controversial because critics worry the move will lead to lower standards for training, less unit cohesion and reduced combat effectiveness in the field.” (USA Today)
“I promise you that the one thing we will not compromise on is standards,” Gen. Martin Dempsey told a group of U.S. servicemen in Baghdad recently.” (USA Today)
“The standards are not negotiable,” said Lt. Col. Rob Robinson, executive officer of the 6th Ranger Training Battalion.” (New York Times)
“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.'” (NPR)
“There is no pressure to change the standards,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, who commands the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, which includes the Ranger School.” (USA Today)
Have you heard enough promises that the standards did not and would not change to accommodate females? Females would have to rise to the excellent standards of the U.S. Army Ranger School. A vexing notion lingers: We may never really know if the command is telling the truth, or if they’re just telling us what we want to hear. What NCA directs DoD to accomplish will certainly be accomplished. As far as NCA’s agenda goes, DoD is helpless to influence. Mad world.
I am fortunate in that the last quote of the list comes from Maj. Gen. Scott “Skipper” Miller, who I attended Delta selection with and was in the unit with for some 10 years. I know the man and swear by his integrity. I am essentially convinced that the two women met all standards and fairly earned their Ranger tabs; let them sew them on immediately. As is reported, both women received favorable peer reports throughout the conduct of the course. Peer reports can be the most telling device in searching for the truth. Yes, both women were recycled during certain phases of the course, but so were many of the men. Roughly 40 of all Ranger candidates make it all the way through the course the first time around.
The actual number of women that started the Pre-Ranger Course, or RIP (Ranger Indoctrination Program), was 138, which dropped down to 19, with two finally graduating. A third woman is still in the course, having been recycled in certain phases. How many attempts do Ranger candidates get to pass a phase? A candidate can get dropped for bad attitude, injuries, or lack of motivation, but as Ranger training doctrine sees it, if you have a strong, motivated candidate that is not willing to quit and keeps trying, well, the Rangers want that candidate if he/she can pass.
In this one man’s opinion, the Rangerettes should be applauded for their accomplishment in the same fashion and with the same rigor that their male teammates should be applauded. Would I walk across the same flaming broken glass barefoot to shake their hands? No, but apparently POTUS doesn’t mind making a raging jackass of himself by attending the graduation to suck up to the Rangerettes. I personally find his cheap PR tactic deplorable. The Rangerettes should too.
Now, if the Rangerettes were to say, boycott their graduation ceremony because of Obama…I would go ahead and take my shoes and socks off and look for some bottles and a lighter. But seriously, I would not mind shaking the Rangerette’s hands and giving them some verbal pats on the back. I would not go out of my way to do that, but tell them where I am and they can stop by for a handshake.
I wouldn’t fault our Rangers if they were to suspect a modicum of conspiracy over the presence of the new girls on the block. Recall the abomination they suffered when Gen. Shinseki lost his pinhead mind and took away the Rangers’ coveted black beret. I’m not a Ranger, but I swear I could feel much of the same pain and disbelief that the Rangers in Delta did.
One of our missions in Delta took us to post-fall Yugoslavian Bosnia to form a protective service detail (PSD) to protect the in-country commander. When it was a U.S. Navy admiral in that position of authority, SEAL Team Six had the PSD. When a U.S. Army general rotated in, the Army wanted Delta to perform the PSD mission. During one rotation, Gen. Shinseki took the helm. Many of the Delta operators on Shinseki’s detail were former Rangers. All of the PSD liked working for the general; they liked and respected the man.
General Skinseki came to the Unit one year for a change of command ceremony. He was happy to be there and looked forward to some grip-and-grin with the Delta men who had worked his Bosnia PSD. He was somewhat stunned when not a single operator came to greet him. I often wonder if to this day he has ever looked in his bathroom mirror, face-palmed himself, and thought, “WTF was I thinking!?”
Having imparted the upside of the Rangerette’s success, on now to the downside with two points: First of all, it turns out that at their duty stations the Rangerettes were given six months to train up for Ranger School. That is to say, their full duty day was dedicated to getting in shape and training for Ranger School…then go home.
In the day, it was customary for unit commanders to grant a portion of the duty day to a soldier who was going to try out for Delta selection a month prior to his selection date. That was usually one to two hours. While assigned to Key West, my commander granted me a big fat zero time to train up for Delta. I had to do all of my impossible train-up on my own time. As for the Rangerettes getting special treatment during the course—no. As for special treatment prior to the course, I have to say yes. What was the phrase I read from some article feedback? I believe it was, “stacking the deck.”
Second of all, and as food for thought, what happens when this class of graduating students either reports back to their units as tab Rangers, or floods the Regiment as scroll-wearing Rangers? Do the real and less favorable stories start coming out about favoritism from the cadre or treatment with kit gloves? I am of the hope that it will not be the case, but if it does happen, I at least won’t have to kick myself for not seeing it coming.
All in all, and for the time being, congratulations Rangerettes!
Rangers Lead The Way!
(Image courtesy of the Havok Journal)