The U.S. Army is considering whether to let female soldiers attend its elite Ranger School as it considers future combat roles for women, the Army’s top officer said.
“If we determine that we’re going to allow women to join the infantry and be successful, they are probably at some time going to have to go through Ranger School,” General Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said yesterday at a Pentagon news conference.
Women are barred from direct combat roles, including infantry and special-operations forces. Women, who make up about 16 percent of the Army, have increasingly been exposed to combat as traditional front lines have become blurred in wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
No decision on Ranger School has been made, according to Odierno, who said he asked commanders to study the option. About 90 percent of senior infantry officers are Ranger-qualified, Odierno said.
The prospect already has sparked opposition on blogs where opponents of women in combat roles say it would lead to lowering tough physical-fitness standards.
The Army says Ranger School prepares “Army volunteers -- both officers and enlisted soldiers -- in combat arms-related functional skills.”
“For over two months, Ranger students train to exhaustion, pushing the limits of their minds and bodies,” according to an Army recruitment website.
More than 200 women reported to brigade combat teams as of this week, as the Army begins opening more than 13,000 positions to women that previously were restricted to men, Odierno said.
He said the Army continues to review whether infantry positions should be open to women in the future.