Women soldiers on their way to earn Ranger tab

Women continue to push through the Ranger course

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The U.S. Army is finally giving ladies a shot at earning the Ranger tab.

For the first time, women are participating in Ranger school, which is called an historic moment by many involved .

This week, WTVM News Leader 9 had a chance to witness women possibly blaze a trail, trying to earn that badge and call themselves one the most elite soldiers in the Army.

Their journey to reach that goal is just starting and for the most part it will be the same as male soldiers.

The vision of allowing women to become an actual Ranger seemed so far away for some.

"I had this conversation with a commander two years ago and he mentioned that this was a potential thing that could happen and I was just like I don't really see this happening and two and a half years later, it's happening," Staff Sergeant Cynthia Velarde said about the ranger school.

Women are not exempt from the grueling process. Their endurance, mentally and physically are tested. Only minor changes were made to accommodate women.

"So when the women need to go in and shower and do their personal hygiene, they get a certain amount of time, everything is guarded to make sure they can go in and do that safely and they come out and then the men go at it, but as far as using the facilities, there's doors in there, so there's privacy, as well," 1st Class Gerald Nelson, mentioned.

There were some hesitation and fear in the beginning, instructors and advisers think Ranger school should be open to anyone who is up to par and will make combat better.

It's the emotions, high levels of stress and the will to achieve the same final results that brings the men and women together. Only the uniform matters at the end of the day.

"When you put the uniform on, the enemy sees you as an America Soldier, so if you treat yourself as such and don't take anything the easy way or a different way, just take things as training, I think that's the best way to go because you set your mind," 1st Lt. Alessandra Kirby, Observer Advisor for female gender integration course.

The women in the course weigh an average of 115 pounds which can be very demanding on a female's body. They've proven they can keep up with their male counterparts.

"Some students struggle through some obstacles and they succeed quite easily on different obstacles. And that's what we see with these students, they're going through it together, so they see each other as equal, they are students and that's how the school is treating them as such—they are the same," she said.

Command Sgt Major Curtis H. Arnold, Jr. of the Airborne Ranger Training Brigade adds, "They've got the exact same standards and they were held to the exact same physical standards as the males were and they had to do just as much Land Navigation. They had to do the same 12 mile foot march, otherwise there was no change."

The women who are already in the course will be allowed to re-take a phase in the course in order to make it to the end.

"It's just an opportunity for females to take on a different course if they would like to, just like we have males that come through the course and don't make it. That in itself shows you how difficult and challenging it is to be an Army Ranger," Capt Mel Burroni of Civil Affairs said.

While this is the first of it's kind, there's no word yet on if women would be allowed to continue for future Ranger courses.

Again, the standards are the same for everyone, Last year an amputee failed the Physical Test and was dismissed from the Ranger school.

There are seven and a half weeks left.

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