Readily Will I Display
By Left of the Boom
History abounds with examples of perseverance in the face of adversity. It is one of the core values in the Army and encompasses will, dedication, and the drive to succeed. Having the intestinal fortitude to complete the mission is a hallmark of exactly what it means to be a Ranger.
On 21 Aug 2015 an example will be set. For the first time since the formalization of the course back in 1951, women have been allowed to attend Ranger School and two will graduate. Despite the challenges of the course, which see a pass rate of 48% of men overall, two women will have achieved a level of success that others thought frankly impossible.
When I attended Ranger School, the last phase was typically missions without much in the way of counseling on performance. The RI would tell you if you were wrong, but they did not spend time telling you were doing it right, you were expected to know. I knew, after I completed my first leadership patrol in the final phase, three days in, that I was going to wear a TAB in 10 more days. All I had to do at that point was not screw it up.
Everyone will have been given a graded position, and those who failed, might get a second shot at it. It is therefore very easy to know that these two women were going to make the standards of the course before the actual graduation date.
The physical challenge of the course is legendary, the effort and accomplishment was all theirs. Others might claim that there are tougher phases in other military schools, but no course matches the utter level of brutal intensity of operations as Ranger School does. Other schools have a gut check to see if you will quit. Ranger School is the gut check, all of it.
When they pin on the black and gold Ranger Tab, they will have done something that over 50% of male graduates failed to do. They will be Rangers.
“Its purpose was, and still is, to develop combat skills of selected officers and enlisted men by requiring them to perform effectively as small unit leaders in a realistic tactical environment, under mental and physical stress approaching that found in actual combat. Emphasis is placed on the development of individual combat skills and abilities through the application of the principles of leadership while further developing military skills in the planning and conduct of dismounted infantry, airborne, airmobile, and amphibious independent squad and platoon-size operations. Graduates return to their units to pass on these skills.” — Excerpt from the ARTB history.
For far too long the United States Military has denied itself the ability to recruit from over half the population for skills in combat units because they did not allow women to serve. And yet women have been serving in combat all throughout the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Women have died for their nation but have been denied the chance to bring their skills fully to the table.
It has been said by some that women lacked the physical ability, that the standards might be lowered, and that there was not a need in the first place. Two will have demonstrated that they had the physical ability. I have a serious doubt that the standards were altered to simply pass anyone with so much scrutiny on the outcome. The need is simple, we are a team and women have a role on the team. Leadership is not male only. Leadership is universal and the need for it is equally universal.
As for skill, leadership is not necessarily or even mostly physical in nature. A leader must first and foremost utilize everyone within their capabilities. A leader’s primary tool is not their brawn but their brain. Often enough brute force has been mistaken for leadership, but brawn can be outmaneuvered or leveraged. A leader’s job is the intelligent use of force, not just using force.
Two women will open the door for others and there may well come a time when we can look back and see how our military was changed when we allowed an equal share in the training and development to the force. Ranger School is about teaching leaders how to overcome adversity and how to achieve when everything seems set against them. These two women will own that standard.
It has been said that you cannot evaluate a Ranger by what skills they possess alone; you must also give fair weight to what it takes to stop them.
Throughout the history of the Rangers, stopping them has been the harder challenge. Because stopping a Ranger from completing their mission has been proven time and again to be a near impossible task for the enemy.
That same determination has benefited the Army and sister services that send their people to Ranger School. They attend the school to separate those who can be stopped from those who can’t. That dedication is not trained, but like excavating for gold, it can be uncovered, polished, molded, and developed into a standard that is the example others will follow.
And that is what these women have done. They, even those who failed, pushed themselves to uncover who they were inside, to find the edge of their limits, and push past them. This is what being a Ranger means.
A Ranger Tab is an individual achievement while still being a team player. The team is a necessity because of the nature of the training but if you don’t have what it takes inside, the team cannot do it for you. The individual must have heart, will, determination, stamina, and a dedication to keep going long after the body wants to quit.
I was told, if you stop before you have given the last ounce of strength in your body, then you quit. If you drive yourself until the body collapses, then you have what it takes. The physical can be improved with training, if you don’t have it inside to keep going despite the pain, no one can give you that.
We have a choice. I for one know what I believe. My honor and commitment allowed me to persevere until I was awarded the Ranger Tab and nothing anyone does can diminish what it means to me or take away what I gave to earn it.
Our choice is to recognize that these women are not only fit to wear the Tab, but have set the bar very high for the next entrants on the path. It is simple enough. Will they allow what they have earned to be diminished, I think not. And no one should attempt to denigrate what they have done. They obeyed the standard and in so doing, showed that it can be met.
The Ranger Creed does not mention male or female, there are only Rangers. Will you join me in welcoming the newest to the best in the world?