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Female soldier successfully completes 2nd pre-Ranger course

Friday, May 01, 2015

A female first lieutenant from Fort Carson, Colo, who flies Apache helicopters, successfully completed all course requirements of the second gender-integrated Ranger Training Assessment Course, or RTAC, ending in late February.

(Editor’s note: The Army did not identify the soldier by name to protect her from undue pressure.)

Of the 100 soldiers who started this most-recent RTAC, 17 were female.

Of the soldiers who completed the course successfully, 35 were male and one was female, said Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, who spoke during a media roundtable, Feb. 24.

Miller is commander of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga. Fort Benning hosts both the RTAC and the Ranger course.

The normal completion rate for the two-week RTAC hovers around 50 percent.

The first gender-integrated RTAC course concluded Jan. 30. That course began with 122 soldiers.

Of those soldiers, 26 were female. Of the soldiers who completed the course successfully, 53 were male and five were female.

Successfully completing RTAC qualifies soldiers to go on to the Army’s Ranger course.

Female soldiers who participate in and successfully complete one of the four gender-integrated RTACs will be allowed to attend the first gender-integrated Ranger course. That Ranger Course Assessment began in late April.

Not all soldiers are required to attend an RTAC before attending the Ranger course. However, successfully completing an RTAC is mandatory for all female soldiers who want to attend Ranger course.

Additionally, all National Guard soldiers who want to attend the Ranger course must also successfully complete an RTAC. Active duty male soldiers who don’t work in a physically demanding environment may also attend an RTAC, Miller said.

RTAC is designed to prepare soldiers for the physical and mental rigors of the Ranger course. For those completing RTAC, odds of their success at the Ranger course are improved, Miller said.

Two more gender-integrated RTACs are scheduled for this year: one in March and one in April. Like the two now-completed gender-integrated RTACs, slots are being reserved in each of these courses for 40 female soldiers.

However, as was seen in the first two gender-integrated RTACs, there may not be 40 female soldiers who ask to participate.

One standard for all

Standards for males and females will be the same at both RTAC and the Ranger course, Miller said.

The demanding standards were not bent at all for anyone, and that accounts for the high attrition rates for all soldiers, who fail for any number of reasons including medical and physical. And for some, the stress is just too great and they opt out, he said – male as well as female.

Helping to ensure that the standards remained the same for all participants were 17 enlisted and eight commissioned "observer-advisors," or O-As, said Sgt. 1st Class Tiffany Easter, an O-A.

An additional duty of the O-A was to advise Ranger instructors, she said, since in years past there had never been female students. Some of the advice was on sleep arrangements, latrines, and so on.

Becoming an O-A was a pretty rigorous process, Easter said. Training included a 12-mile foot march, a combat water survival test, and land navigation.

Also, the Army looked for O-As with suitable backgrounds.

In Easter’s case, she had embedded with Special Forces soldiers on culture support teams in remote areas of Afghanistan last year.

For her part, Easter hopes to one day attend the RTAC and then go on to the Ranger course, but for now, she said, it is more important that she helps ensure the gender integration is successful and that standards are upheld for everyone.

Everyone successful

Some of the soldiers who didn’t make it through RTAC opted to recycle to another course, said Maj. William "Shep" Woodard Jr., a company commander with the U.S. Army National Guard Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning.

Additionally, many who didn’t make it through the first week opted to stay in training for the second week, even though that would not entitle them to have successfully made it through RTAC.

"That’s noteworthy and commendable," he said. They saw the "intrinsic value of the training" and will return to their units as better soldiers.

"Anytime soldiers raise their hands and volunteer for a tough course, I admire that," Miller said.

Adding, "And this is about the toughest course the Army has. The operating force will receive more well-trained soldiers because of this experience."