Ranger School: Graduation

The Ranger School says that the President will not be attending graduation.  They also want to dispute a series of additional rumors that have been circulating on Facebook about how the two women managed to pass the final phase of the course.  I've seen all of those rumors in my FB feed.

I have heard one rumor that isn't denied here, which is that the women were involved in a fratricide incident on patrol and were passed anyway (as they should not have been). The source for this is a Regiment guy who claims he has it from one of the trainers directly. There are so many false rumors circulating, though, I don't know whether to believe this one or not. The rumor about the President attending was similarly sourced by Havok Journal. Of course, it may have been true: even if the President wasn't coming, the instructors may have been told to prepare for him to come; or, he may have in fact been planning to come and sent initial warning, and later been talked out of it by someone giving him good advice. In any case, the information in that case was as good as the information in this case, and I can't say whether or not you ought to believe it. At the very least, you can believe that there is a great deal of bitterness among the Rangers about this business -- otherwise, such hostile rumors would not be being passed around, nor so readily believed. The effect on unit cohesion is at least temporarily ugly, though perhaps that will pass in time.

What I do know is that the two women have been passed through the final phase and will graduate tomorrow, becoming the only women in history entitled to wear the Ranger tab. They certainly deserve congratulations for surviving the course -- not everyone does, and they were at a severe disadvantage. Even if they did receive extra help, as they are confirmed to have received second and third chances, it's really appropriate given that they had to undergo the school with a body type that carries less muscle and more fat, a strength and aerobic capacity approximately 20-40% lower than mens', structural disadvantages in their hips and knees, and in coming to Ranger school from outside the Combat Arms, which means they had to learn the skills on the fly rather than honing skills they already had. Any of these would have been a potentially crippling disadvantage. They managed the course while carrying all of them together.  That's a tremendous accomplishment whether they got extra help or not.

It happens that I had a long talk about all this with my friend, who happens also to be Uncle Jimbo's fiancee, and goes by the online nickname "Airborne Girl." She had wanted to get into Ranger school when she was in the military (and did, as the nickname suggests, successfully complete Airborne school). Indeed, she tells me that she applied for Ranger school like seventeen times. Her opinion is that it ought to be opened to women who are in positions that may require them to lead soldiers in combat, as it is the Army's best leadership course. As a signals officer, she wasn't likely to be called upon to do it, but it was far from impossible that she could find herself in the situation.

I respect that opinion. I still think the course should probably remain closed to women, as a 10% pass rate (ordinarily the pass rate is 42%) and only after the third try appears to confirm the results of previous studies involving the USMC IOC and the United Kingdom's tri-service longitudinal study of women in combat. Even if you get them through the course, they're not a good fit for the units the course is designed to support -- which is not necessarily the Ranger Regiment, but it is generally the Combat Arms. A separate leadership course for officers who may be called upon to lead soldiers in combat, but only accidentally and not for extended periods, would better support officers of the kind Airborne Girl is talking about.

What the military has actually decided to do is open BUD/S to women in an attempt to produce female Navy SEALs. That course runs for six months instead of the roughly two months of the Ranger course. Now the SEALs -- excepting DEVGRU, or "Seal Team Six" as it used to be called -- are a much larger group that we often realize, more or less the size of the 75th Ranger Regiment all told. Still, BUD/S is famously punishing, and it is very long. The risk of injury over time strikes me as the main reason to disfavor women in the combat arms: getting them through a two month school is one thing, but a six month or year long deployment in Afghanistan is something else again. Further, the Rangers and SEALs both deploy at a very high tempo, over and over again. A longer course will provide a sterner test of that capability, and it looks like we're going to see how that plays out.

All seriousness aside, the Department of the Navy is about to have a field day with the Army in the playful blood sport of inter-service rivalry jokes. I expect to see Marines mocking the Army for having a Ranger course that is easier than the USMC Infantry Officers Course (as it "must be" if women can do it) any minute now. If women pass BUD/S too the whole of the Marine Corps will become insufferable for years. If they don't, meanwhile, imagine how much fun the Navy is going to have mocking the ease of life in the Army. They've been taking constant mockery on that score from the Army for decades, and I'm sure they will take intense personal pleasure in the opportunity to give it back.


raven said...

I don't give a sweet about mockery or equality or diversity or anything else- what I want to know is very simple. Will we win, or will we lose? Will these women enhance our combat capacity or dilute it? Are we wasting resources or conserving them?
We are getting closer and closer to a "new" kind of war for Americans- A kind of war we have not seen since 1865. The kind of war where we no longer have the supreme luxury of all the dead being on a foreign field, along with the attendant civilian carnage. People in this country have largely forgotten what "losing" really entails. The only "losing" they have ever done has been in a sporting or political arena,and the loss has been to a Western Civilization. A loss to the barbarians is a whole new game.

Grim said...

Well, in fairness, women didn't fight in 1865 -- but they did, both before and after the war, settle the frontier country in the teeth of Native American resistance and a complete lack of infrastructure to support them. My sense is that, with adequate support from men, women can be useful in tough conditions like those. That's a mission (and really a sort of war) that could not have been accomplished without women, because it required settling the territory over generations -- producing homes, producing children, and raising them up.

So if we support the women adequately, they can certainly deal with very tough and dangerous situations. That's another reason it doesn't bother me if, in fact, these women received a little extra support, a little less time in "smoke sessions" on top of the already-difficult day, and so forth. If we're being realistic, that's probably what would need to happen in the field as well. We ought to price it in.

Are the benefits to combat effectiveness worth the trade? Yes, if we are fighting a war where we need Marine Corps-style Female Engagement Teams, or Civil Affairs-style female medics to work with Afghan or Iraqi women that the men can't talk to or touch. No, if we're fighting trench warfare or armored combat.

The Army has to figure out what kind of a war it's likely to fight, and prepare accordingly.

jaed said...

My general take is that the more training, and the harder training, the better for everyone (modulo not making it so harsh that it damages trainees physically in a permanent way).

It may be that women and men shouldn't train side by side in these situations. It's possible that the training that has been worked on and optimized over centuries of experience to bring out the best in males is not optimized for females - in which case it will still work, sort of, but it might not be the best we can do to train women to the highest pitch of readiness.

We may be able to come up with training methods that work better for this population if we're paying more attention to "get as many women as possible to excel to the limit of their capacity" and less to "gotta get the numbers to 50%", or "the poor dears are too weak to meet the same standards".

Ymar Sakar said...

What's the point of creating female super soldiers when there are no gender segregated units for them to go into afterwards?

America is more retarded than people think, it seems. Assuming of course that this isn't intentional sabotage by the powers that be in the civilian and military corrupt bureaucracy.