At the end of Darby phase your squad will evaluate your efforts within the squad and someone has to be last, just as someone has to be first. Ranger candidates will explain to RI’s how the members of the squad are when they think no one is looking: This one of the most important parts of Ranger School. It is set up specifically to challenge the weak link and to see if that link strengthens or if it breaks. By the time the RI’s decide your fate at the end of Darby phase, people begin to question their reasons for being there.Yet it is the Darby phase that has defeated all of the female candidates in the one-time trial program to introduce women to Ranger School. Eight of them were recycled, but they have all failed again. Of these, two will be permitted to retry a third time. That sets the maximum success rate for the Darby phase at 10% for the female candidates, if those two manage to do on the third try what they have twice failed to do. And that just gets them to the Mountain phase at Frank D. Merrill.
This is where people start to miss home, talk about how their families need them or how they have to quit in order to go to combat with their unit. These candidates have yet to walk mount Yonah, pass the knot test, or conquer the nighttime descents of mountaineering. They have yet to enter the copper head inhabited Yellow river of Florida where alligators will swim next to their zodiac or have upward facing tree stumps ravage their legs as their bodies battle hyperthermia. On average, about 45 percent of Ranger School students will graduate.
The Havok Journal celebrates this, not out of disdain for the women, but because it means the standards have not been lowered. High standards in an elite combat unit save lives on the battlefield.
Others feel otherwise.
But there is another opinion quietly being voiced as well: that Ranger School is more akin to a rite of passage – an opportunity for men to “thump their chest,” as one Ranger puts it – than a realistic preparation for leading in war. That women can actually make Ranger units more effective. And that the standards that keep them out are outdated....That doesn't sound like an argument that the standard is outdated, but that until we make huge changes in how we outfit our troops the standard points to a very real issue. If it's already a huge problem even for men, and we haven't yet made things any lighter, why wouldn't the ruck march at Ranger School be a practical test? First Sergeant's an E-8, so he's probably in his thirties somewhere. At one time he was able to make the ruck march. As a Golden Gloves guy he was at one time in fantastic shape. As an NCO in an infantry unit, he's kept himself in at least pretty good shape for a thirty-something. If even this guy is having trouble later in his career, and back injury rates are so high across the force, why would we think that people more prone to such injuries (and other allied injuries) would be a wise addition?
The question, he adds, is: Are these standards a fair measure of the challenges of combat?
Dempsey recalls being in violent Kunar province in Afghanistan and hiking up to the rugged Pakistan border. Along for the mission was a male first sergeant who was also a Ranger-tabbed Golden Gloves boxer. The unit had to stop for the first sergeant because he needed to rest during the strenuous march.
“No one’s going to say that the first sergeant is a deadbeat. We need him, and we’re just going to take a break.”
On other occasions, he adds, the combat patrols would simply make the decision not to bring along their heavy packs.
“The equipment we carry is just insane,” Amerine says. “We all have back injuries at the end of our careers.”
The No. 1 Department of Veterans Affairs claim – made by 58 percent of all claimants – is muscular-skeletal injuries.
“If we really are serious about integrating the force, the equipment we carry is going to be one of the things we have to have a hard conversation about,” Amerine says. “It’s in our grasp technologically to make things a lot lighter.”
We should thank everyone who participated for exploring this with us, and declare the experiment closed.