I follow the saga of female integration into the combat arms more closely than I do the World Series, so today I was pleasantly surprised to see the first update on the project in about a week. All remaining 8 women failed the Benning phase of Ranger School (the first phase) and will be recycling.
First, it’s important to remember that the women going through the Ranger School experience are doing it because they are highly motivated and want to be at the top of their game, so appropriate recognition and respect to them for doing that.
Now, for the rest of the armchair soldiers out there who want to play games with the military, take note:
1) Some people (Charles Clymer) celebrated because the women got past the PT test and the obstacle course, claiming that
So, what happened? Only three women failed the test along with 78 men. Doing the quick math, that means 84.2 percent of women passed… as did 79.5 percent of men.
You read that right. Under the same standards, when gender was not a factor in assessment, more women than men passed Day One of Ranger School.
But what it should demonstrate is the ridiculousness of continuing to state that women are not up to the task when it comes to leading troops in combat. Are all women up for this? Of course not, but neither are all men, easily proved by the fact that 78 men failed to get past the first day.
There’s a lot of the course still left, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that no woman will make it to graduation, but this test, along with the first two weeks of Ranger School, usually see the most candidates wash out. Even if just ten women make it to the third week, chances are likely that June will witness the first women earn the coveted Ranger Tab and prove themselves capable of combat leadership.
Feminist Clymer was absolutely wrong. He was wrong about asserting that passing a PT test indicates that women can perform and fit in. He was wrong about his assessment of the chances of the ladies, and quite probably (although we may never really know how the ladies failed) wrong about the ability of the women to lead in a school environment. He drew false equivalencies between the initial training environment and the school, and between male failures and female capabilities, and would no doubt be first in line to do the same about the school and performance in combat operations. Will he print a retraction and correction? Any honest journalist would, but I doubt he falls in that category. He is advancing a political agenda, not a combat effectiveness agenda.
And again, lest anyone forget, this isn’t just about performance in the school: It is about the overall effect on combat effectiveness of the Army.
There are some lessons to draw from this on a micro level:
Strength is not the same as Fitness
All the ladies going to Ranger were very fit. They went through multiple tiers of selection to get into the school. And indeed, they passed the Physical Fitness Test and initial fitness gates.
However, while we don’t know exactly what they failed for, Ranger School requires moving heavy objects like guns and full rucksacks around for extended periods of time. The weight doesn’t change, you can’t “kip” it, you can’t count on your lighter weight and proportionate body strength to get around a requirement. It doesn’t go away. You must be strong enough to deal with it. Women statistically are not strong. I’d be surprised if that wasn’t a significant factor here.
According to the sources Fred Reed cites, the top 5% female performer will do about as well as the median male performer. The washout rates so far are consistent with that, with over half of the men washing out or recycling, and all of the women doing so.
And I’ll bet that going through Darby again, and then to Mountains won’t help. The loads only get heavier in mountains, and the terrain gets a lot worse, as you can tell from the below above/below comparisons (map sources linked if you want to analyze) from Benning to Mountains phases, and the relative elevation changes.
Discipline and Endurance
Fox News had an interesting blurb in their update on the experiment:
One official who spoke with Fox News claimed the female candidates struggled with the rigors of the training program and had particular difficulties with the intense sleep deprivation involved, and other aspects of the course.
No other news source had that interview.
The “training program” part of it probably meant that the women had trouble with getting their patrols passed.
The “particular difficulties with the intense sleep deprivation” very likely means that most of women couldn’t stay awake on patrol, causing them to fail either leadership roles, peer evaluations, or get enough “major minuses” to recycle. Having trouble staying awake is not uncommon at Ranger school, but I thought it was interesting that this was called out as a special cause. It could point to physiological difficulties or personal discipline issues.
It will be interesting to see whether and how many women ultimately make it out of Benning. I’m going to guess that a 2-3 do, and then wash out in Mountains. Good luck to them – Ranger School sucks.
And women still shouldn’t be in combat roles, or taking places from more-likely-to-pass men for resources like Ranger School. The reduced statistical likelihood of passing these schools should be an obvious sign to the 12-lb brains planning these things that many more slots will be allocated to women than would be needed to yield a similar number of men, which means that the Army is wasting resources trying to push women through. And it’s utterly predictable that the Army will continue to do so, given that its mission has become pleasing its political masters rather than winning wars.