WASHINGTON - Reuters
Army Rangers students carry a zodiac boat into the Yellow River on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, at Camp James E. Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. AP Photo
Two women have made military history after becoming the first female soldiers to pass the U.S. Army's grueling Ranger Course, the Army said on August 17.
The two, along with 94 men, passed the 62-day leadership course, which teaches students "how to overcome fatigue, hunger, and stress to lead Soldiers during small unit combat operations," it said in a statement.
In April, 19 women and 381 men began the first Army Ranger school that included women. The course, based at Fort Benning, Georgia, includes training in woodlands, mountainous terrain and Florida swampland.
Army Rangers are rapidly deployable troops trained for mountain, desert and swamp terrain and often go after special operations targets.
"Highlights of the course include a physical fitness test consisting of 49 push-ups, 59 sit-ups, a five mile run in 40 minutes, and six chin-ups; a swim test; a land navigation test; a 12-mile foot march in three hours; several obstacle courses; four days of military mountaineering; three parachute jumps; four air assaults on helicopters; multiple rubber boat movements; and 27 days of mock combat patrols," the statement said.
A graduation ceremony will be held at Fort Benning on August 21.
The U.S. military began a process two years ago to open thousands of frontline combat jobs to women. The service branches have been developing gender-neutral requirements for all jobs in the military and evaluating whether to recommend that any remain closed to women.
The Army had faced resistance to allowing women to serve in combat units, but since such experience is a factor in promotions and job advancement in the military, women have had greater difficulty than men in moving up to the top ranks, officials have said.
About 90 percent of senior Army infantry officers qualified as Rangers, which should allow women graduates to better compete with their male counterparts.
Nearly 12 percent of U.S. forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan were women. They represented about 2 percent of U.S. military deaths in those wars.