Oklahoma congressman writes second letter to Army for female Ranger records

Oklahoma congressman writes second letter to Army for female Ranger records
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Ebony Banks/ Released)

(WTVM) – An Oklahoma congressman has now sent a second letter to the Secretary of the Army requesting the performance records of female Ranger candidates as another woman is set to graduate from the Army's elite training program.

Representative Steve Russell (R-OK), wrote another letter to Army Secretary John McHugh, dated Oct. 7.

The second letter inquires as to why some documents he requested would be destroyed by the U.S. Army, per a meeting with Army officials, according to a letter obtained from the congressman's office.

"I was somewhat puzzled by the Army officials informing me that many of the documents I am requesting might not be delivered as they may have been shredded," Russell's letter said. "I stated in our meeting that I believed if this is the case, then it would certainly complicate the ability to ascertain the information necessary and determine whether the military members' allegations were substantiated, or if we can lay this to rest. It is my sincere hope that on a program with so much national interest and so much historic significance, that such lack of due care would have occurred especially given that my request for the documentation was only 30 days from the completion of the first course being examined."

His next due date was Oct.15. So far, the congressman has not received anything.

In the letter, Rep. Russell mentions that he requested another meeting with top Army officials, but was told of McHugh's "very busy schedule and it was not accommodated."

To close his letter, Rep. Russell said he has "the highest regard" for all soldiers who take on Ranger School, and recalled the women he's served with in the military.

"If we can train all warriors to the highest capacity, why should we not attempt it? It might also be of interest that I lost two gallant female warriors under my command in combat and decorated a third for valor," Russell said.

In his initial letter, dated Sept. 15, Rep. Russell asked for all of the records pertaining to the performance of the women involved in the Army's gender-integrated Ranger Assessment Course.

Russell said he had information stating that the women in the course were getting special treatment and that the standards were changed to make the course easier for them. The U.S. Army has consistently denied changing the requirements for women involved in the course.

With a deadline of Sept. 25 given, Secretary McHugh replied to Rep. Russell asking for an extension. Both letters were retained for accuracy in this report. You can read Rep. Russell's letter here.

"I have asked the Chief, Legislative Liaison to compile as many of the documents as we can legally provide," McHugh's letter stated. "As you know, we must balance the privacy requirements of our Soldiers with our desire to be as responsive as possible to your request. Accordingly, we will need additional time to compile and review all appropriate documents. I have asked the Chief, Legislative Liaison to keep you apprised of the status of our efforts."

You can read Secretary McHugh's response here.

According to Rep. Russell's communications director Daniel Susskind, the congressman is currently in China on official business and will not be giving any statements to go along with the letters until he returns to the U.S.

A request to interview Rep. Russell was not immediately granted on Thursday.

In his only public statement, a Sept. 23 Facebook post from Rep. Russel said that the request was 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 wrongdoing or it will lay it to rest. We expect to examine the records by next week and will make a determination from there," the post said.

But, in a report from Star & Stripes, Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Smith said it is common practice to destroy documents after a class graduates. Smith was the top non-commissioned officer at the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade from 2009 through 2012.

"After a class leaves, we never hang onto the patrol records or peer reviews. The only thing we keep is the green card, which is the official record," Smith said.

Army Reservist Maj. Lisa Jaster is the third woman to earn her Ranger tab, and will graduate on Friday at Victory Pond on Fort Benning. 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.

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, Griest and Jaster.

The reports of Congressman Russell's letters to the Army were first published on People.com.

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