The U.S. Army is set—for the first time—to graduate two female soldiers from the Army Ranger School, the Army announced on Monday. The two female lieutenants, both in their 20s, successfully completed the Army’s punishing nine-week training course and will graduate with the Ranger class on Friday.
The Army announced it was going to begin assessing incorporating women into its Ranger training earlier this year, and 19 women started the grueling, monthslong course that is a prerequisite to serve in the Army’s elite special operations unit. “Though they will have earned the prestigious Ranger Tab for having completed the course, the two women will not be eligible to try out to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment as women are not yet allowed to serve in that special operations combat unit,” according to the Associated Press. “That could change early next year when Defense Secretary Ash Carter will decide whether to allow women to be eligible to serve in all combat units.”
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh acknowledged the historic achievement:
Each Ranger School graduate has shown the physical and mental toughness to successfully lead organizations at any level. This course has proven that every Soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential. We owe Soldiers the opportunity to serve successfully in any position where they are qualified and capable, and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best Soldiers to meet our Nation’s needs.
The Pentagon lifted its ban on women in combat, and each branch of the armed forces has until the end of the year to determine which combat positions will be open to female service members. “The policy shift reflected a reality that has been obvious to hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Marines and other service members who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan: Women have for years played increasingly significant roles in combat,” the New York Times reports. “The Army has taken pains to emphasize that the female soldiers have had to meet precisely the same standards as the males, including the initial physical tests — 49 push-ups, 59 situps, six chin-ups, and a five-mile run in no more than 40 minutes.”