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Leigh Ann Hester credit: en.wikipedia.org

Leigh Ann Hester
credit: en.wikipedia.org

This is very cool. From Reuters:   

Two women have made military history after becoming the first female soldiers to pass the U.S. Army’s grueling Ranger Course, the Army said on Monday.

The two, along with 94 men, passed the 62-day leadership course, which teaches students ‘how to overcome fatigue, hunger, and stress to lead Soldiers during small unit combat operations,’ it said in a statement.

In April, 19 women and 381 men began the first Army Ranger school that included women. The course, based at Fort Benning, Georgia, includes training in woodlands, mountainous terrain and Florida swampland.

Army Rangers are rapidly deployable troops trained for mountain, desert and swamp terrain and often go after special operations targets.

‘Highlights of the course include a physical fitness test consisting of 49 push-ups, 59 sit-ups, a five mile run in 40 minutes, and six chin-ups; a swim test; a land navigation test; a 12-mile foot march in three hours; several obstacle courses; four days of military mountaineering; three parachute jumps; four air assaults on helicopters; multiple rubber boat movements; and 27 days of mock combat patrols,’ the statement said.

Once the opportunity was opened, it was only a matter of time. Many of the people who fill elite teams are not the biggest and strongest, but the most determined, people who can run at a steady pace all day and who will not quit. Granted, in most pursuits requiring strength, men have the advantage, but there are certainly women who can equal, even surpass, most men.

Monica Lin Brown credit: mysanantonio.com

Monica Lin Brown
credit: mysanantonio.com

Nearly 12 percent of U.S. forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan were women. They represented about 2 percent of U.S. military deaths in those wars.

I’m aware of the additional arguments against women in combat roles, but the modern battlefield exposes women to direct and indirect enemy fire. Many have been wounded and killed, and others have distinguished themselves in combat, women such as Leigh Ann Hester, the first woman since WWII to win the Silver Star, and Monica Lin Brown, the second Silver Star winner. If they have the honest capability, and the determination to serve in combat arms–they already serve as front line combat pilots, like Kimberly Campbell, a Distinguished Flying Cross winner–then God keep them and make them fast, accurate and deadly. If you want to read about genuine American heroes, woman who will make you proud to be Americans–something we can use more of these days–take the links.

Kimberly Campbell credit: fortressamerica.gawker.com

Kimberly Campbell
credit: fortressamerica.gawker.com

There is also another opportunity opening for military women. USA Today has the story: 

The Navy is planning to open its elite SEAL teams to women who can pass the grueling training regimen, the service’s top officer said Tuesday.

Adm. Jon Greenert, chief of naval operations, said he and the head of Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Adm. Brian Losey, believe that if women can pass the legendary six-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, they should be allowed to serve.

‘Why shouldn’t anybody who can meet these (standards) be accepted? And the answer is, there is no reason,’ Greenert said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with Navy Times’ sister publication Defense News. ‘So we’re on a track to say, ‘Hey look, anybody can meet the gender non-specific standards, then you can become a SEAL.

This is a particularly interesting development. I know more than my share of women who are extraordinarily athletes and swimmers. Military lore has it that SEAL selection is more brutal than Ranger selection, but I suspect one day, we’ll see our first female SEAL, and under the same standards as the men.

The push to integrate the storied SEAL brotherhood is coming on the heels of a comprehensive review led by Losey that recommended women be allowed under the same exacting standards required of male candidates. The Army and Air Force are also moving to open all combat jobs to women, according to officials who spoke to The Associated Press. It’s believed the Marine Corps may seek to keep its ground combat jobs, including the infantry, male-only.” [skip]

The SEALs would be the latest, and the last, of the traditionally male-only branches to open to women during Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’ tenure.

In 2011, the first female officers reported to ballistic missile submarines, and early this year several more reported to Virginia-class attack subs. Enlisted women are on track to join them next year.

We often forget that even if a soldier never sees combat, military training and life is inherent dangerous, and often, deadly:

Forty Army Ranger students and four instructors were struck by lightning in Florida during a training program aimed at protecting themselves from a thunderstorm’s lightning bolts, the U.S. Army said on Thursday.

Talk about irony…

All 44 individuals were taken to a local hospital for treatment following the Wednesday afternoon incident at Eglin Air Force Base, in north Florida, the Army said in a statement.

Seventeen students and three instructors remained overnight at the hospital while the remaining students and instructor were treated and released, the statement said.

‘The Ranger students and instructors reacted and got everyone proper medical care quickly,” said Colonel David Fivecoat, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade commander.

‘Ranger students and instructors are tough, 31 students will return to training tonight (Thursday) and continue with increased medical monitoring as they try to earn their Ranger tab,’ he said.

Tough indeed.