The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s -

The Army an­nounced Mon­day that it has taken the first steps to­ward train­ing women at its Ranger school in Fort Ben­ning, Ge­or­gia, as part of the push to in­te­grate women into front-line com­bat units. Army spokes­woman Jen­nifer Gunn said 40 fe­male can­di­dates be­gan a week­long pro­gram Mon­day to be­come “ob­servers” for what will po­ten­tially be a Ranger Course As­sess­ment.

Ranger train­ing at Fort Ben­ning and two other fa­cil­i­ties is con­sid­ered one of the most rig­or­ous mil­i­tary cour­ses. The 61-day course is both phys­i­cally and men­tally de­mand­ing.

The course had been closed to women un­til Septem­ber. A fi­nal decision on whether women will be al­lowed to join Ranger train­ing is not ex­pected un­til Jan­uary.

The course’s strength re­quire­ments are ex­pected to limit women in com­plet­ing the course, as has oc­curred in sim­i­lar Marine Corps train­ing.

It is not clear what ad­vice the ob­servers will pro­vide. How­ever, one Army of­fi­cial said the ob­servers’ role will be to “make sure the course is not harder or eas­ier for women.”

“After com­ple­tion of th­ese five days of train­ing, se­lected ob­servers and ad­vis­ers will go through a mod­i­fied Ranger In­struc­tor train­ing pro­gram that will pre­pare them for a specif­i­cally as­signed area, such as a moun­tain or swamp train­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” the Army state­ment said. “After com­plet­ing the mod­i­fied train­ing, th­ese ob­servers and ad­vis­ers will ob­serve two cy­cles of the Ranger Course prior to a pos­si­ble Ranger Course As­sess­ment in the spring of 2015.”

Con­tact Bill Gertz on Twit­ter at @Bil­lGertz.

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