The Veterans’ Perspective – On the US Army Ranger School Story

By Elmer Ellsworth

We have been asked to provide the Veterans’ Perspective on the topic which US Defense Watch has been at the forefront of covering – the allegations that US Army’s Ranger School lowered standards or improperly passed female soldiers. Here goes …

A Soldier is a Soldier – Today’s post 9/11 Veterans have learned first-hand that the true medal of a warrior is measured based on that individual’s actions and inactions. Nothing more, nothing less. What a person looks like and where they come from has no bearing on their ability to perform as a warrior. Women have proven themselves as equal and deserving members of the military team.

Elite Training = Better Soldiers – The training and skills learned at Ranger School are critical in creating state of the art warriors and maintaining a mission ready military. Ranger training provides better Soldiers and leaders. It is not just for combat Soldiers. So, it is a reasonable initiative to provide deserving female Soldiers the opportunity to go to Ranger school. To be clear, “deserving” means capable of successfully satisfying ALL pre-requisites and being fortunate enough to be selected. It is not a “right” granted to all Soldiers. Many deserving (qualified) male Soldiers are not given the opportunity.

Separate Issue from Women in Combat – One thing civilians may not appreciate is that completing Ranger School does not mean that the Soldier is assigned to a Ranger unit. Many, if not most, of the students go on to serve in conventional units in the Army. There is no doubt that a female support Soldier with a Ranger Tab reporting into a combat unit will be better prepared to succeed and contribute to that unit. Similarly, she will have a level of credibility and an endorsement that will go a long way in allowing their male counterparts to trust and rely upon her. These are exactly the same benefits for male Soldiers. So, if all we are talking about is whether or not women should be permitted to go through Ranger training, from a Veterans’ Perspective this is not difficult issue.

One Standard – But, the credibility of the endorsement that Ranger School provides is at stake if the standards for completing Ranger school have been altered in any way. It is the very premise of a single unwavering standard for achieving the Ranger Tab that provides significance to the tab. There cannot be any compromise on this point.

It May be Inevitable – Initially, my view was that there was no story here. Just because the senior leader in charge of the Ranger School made the statement that there would be a female graduate did not by itself indicate that the standards had been changed. After all, I have met some female soldiers whom I believed could very likely make it through the training. So, if I was the senior leader in charge of the Ranger School I also could firmly believe that it was inevitable that a woman would eventually graduate and believe it was important for the institution to begin to accept that fact.

But It Must Be True – Based on the latest reports from People Magazine, the Army Times and it is apparent that there are questions that need to be answered. The US Army Ranger School is an important element of our Nation’s defense establishment. It must be operated on a single and consistent standard and it must be able to answer questions that arise to demonstrate its integrity to that standard.   Anything short of a single and consistent standard paired with integrity and honesty is a disgrace to the Ranger Tab and all those who respect and appreciate the meaning of that Tab. In short, this is no laughing matter.

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