Oklahoma congressman questions standards held for female Army Rangers

Oklahoma congressman questions standards held for female Army Rangers
(Source: WTVM)
Rep. Steve Russell. (Source: Facebook)
Rep. Steve Russell. (Source: Facebook)

(WTVM) – A United States congressman has filed a request with the U.S. Army asking for documents regarding the performance of the first two women graduates of the Army's Ranger course.

Representative Steve Russell (R-OK) sent a letter to outgoing Secretary of the Army John McHugh on Sept. 15. The information request from Rep. Russell inquires if the first two women to successfully complete the Ranger assessment course – Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver – were given special treatment.

"The letter is from the congressman, and was sent in response to allegations of special treatment and not being held to the same standard," Alex Hutkin, Rep. Russell's deputy chief of staff and legislative director said in an email, verifying the letter's authenticity.

In the letter, the combat veteran requests the patrol grade sheets, spot records, critical test evaluation sheets, phase evaluation reports, peer evaluations of every phases including recycle phases, sick call reports and evaluations, the complete breakdown of the two women's recycle history and the corresponding dates, and complete pre-training history.

Rep. Russell gave a deadline of Friday, Sept. 25 for the documents to be sent to his Washington, DC office.

"The training of our combat warriors is paramount to our national defense," Russell's letter begins. "Providing the highest level of training to our warriors should be the Army's priority. Mitigating injury concerns, dietary shortcoming that can enhance performance and refining training to increase training success are all factors that should gain our nation's support. The rigors of combat are unforgiving."

You can read Rep. Russell's letter here. The congressman also made a statement on his Facebook page, saying:

The records request on the recent Ranger classes that included females is to investigate serious allegations that are being made by members of the military. No one wanted to touch this issue. As one of only two Ranger qualified members of the House, I asked for the records to determine the nature of the allegations. The investigation should show whether there was any wrong-doing or it will lay it to rest. We expect to examine the records by next week and will make a determination from there.

A Capitol Hill source told People magazine that Rep. Russell wrote the letter based on "sources at Fort Benning" that are "coming forward to say the Army lied about women in Ranger school" getting special treatment.

Griest and Haver were among the group of 96 Ranger-qualified soldiers who graduated as part of Ranger School Class 08-15 on Aug. 21. They are the first two women to graduate from the fully gender-integrated Ranger School course.

Rep. Russell has a military background of his own: according to the congressional website's biography, Russell was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army to begin his 21-year military career, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. Russell is also a graduate of Army Ranger School as a member of Class 11-87, and commanded battalions as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Critics of the gender-integrated course have taken to social media to express their feelings since the Army made the changes to the course. In April, 19 women and 381 men made up the class of Ranger candidates that included Haver and Griest. A third woman is currently recycling the final phase of Ranger school in Florida.

It even forced General Scott Miller to address it at the graduation on Aug. 21.

"Ladies and gentlemen, [Ranger Assessment Phase] week has not changed. Standards remain the same," Miller said. "The five-mile run is still five miles. The 12-mile march is still 12 miles. The required weight of the students' rucksacks have stayed the same; the mountains of Dahlonega are still here, the swamps remain intact. There was no pressure from anyone above me to change standards."

The Ranger course takes 62 days to complete if no cycles are re-done. It took Griest and Haver more than 90 days to complete to course. On Sept. 2, the Army announced the Ranger school course would be fully integrated.

Fort Benning says they are not making a statement at this time.

Check back for more updates.

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