OPINION: Ranger School is Dead – Forward Observer Shop

OPINION: Ranger School is Dead

Ranger School as we knew it is dead, and the price paid is still to be determined.

That’s right.  Ranger School is dead and it’s not the fault of the female cadets and soldiers, either. The death of Ranger School began a long time ago.  It happened when Ranger School was labeled a “leadership” school by Army officers who wanted it to be used to “punch” an officer’s ticket.  For me, it’s easy: anyone who doesn’t require the skills taught at Ranger School should not attend whether male, female, officer, enlisted or cadet.

Let’s look at what Ranger School is designed for and what tasks are taught and performed by Ranger School students. I copied this straight from the Ranger Department’s website, specifically where they discuss the history of Ranger School.

“The Ranger Course was conceived during the Korean War and was known as the Ranger Training Command. On 10 October 1951, the Ranger Training Command was inactivated and became the Ranger Department, a branch of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. 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, air mobile, and amphibious independent squad and platoon-size operations.  Graduates return to their units to pass on these skills.

From 1954 to the early 1970’s, the Army’s goal, though seldom achieved, was to have one Ranger qualified NCO per infantry platoon and one officer per company. In an effort to better achieve this goal, in 1954 the Army required all combat arms officers to become Ranger/ Airborne qualified.”

The Army failed itself, its soldiers (past and present) and the citizens of the United States.  Whenever you make a school necessary to punch an officer’s ticket for promotion, you in fact degrade readiness and that is what has occurred over time.  Some say that Ranger School is a “leadership” school.  Well if that is so then why isn’t the Sergeant Majors Academy in charge of the curriculum as with all NCO development schools? Because it’s not just a leadership school, it’s an Infantry School.  Why?  Because it teaches small unit Infantry tactics to combat arms soldiers to be better light infantry soldiers.  Ranger School prepares soldiers to conduct combat and reconnaissance dismounted patrols in different environments.  Does every officer and enlisted soldier need this capability?  No!  The soldiers who need this skill are those who actually will be performing these tasks as part of their job description and the operations that they will be required to perform.

The sad thing is that the Army gave way to politics, which means that if the command does not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to politics and politicians, then how can they be trusted with the Army’s readiness? The Army can’t tell the country, least of all actual Rangers, that these woman weren’t given special treatment.  The fact is they were, and every Ranger knows they were because the community is small and we enlisted men will talk if something stinks.

So what will be interesting in the coming weeks and months is if the Army decides to lift the exclusion for women to serve in Combat Arms MOS’s, because that’s what this whole social experiment has been about.

If the military opens up these combat arms jobs to women, will the United States Military be stronger or weaker for that decision?  The reason I ask this is because our allies and our enemies have a vote and our National Defense Strategy can suffer if we don’t take into consideration the cultures that we interact with.  The world is mostly a male dominated society.  I know some of you may not like hearing that, but it’s true.  If we don’t look at the bigger picture here we may be doing more damage to ourselves globally for the sake of equality within our own country.

Just because in our culture woman have the opportunity to excel and do anything or become anything doesn’t mean that allowing women in combat arms is necessarily the right thing to do from a strategic point of view.  Especially when you take into consideration who they may have to interact with, and where we may have to fight.

John Hurth is a former U.S. Army Special Operations soldier.  He’s also the founder of Tyr Group, a tactical training company in Louisiana.


  1. Yup, agreed. Sorry to see this happening to the greatest military organization the western world has ever known, but the beginning of the end began a while ago and “it ain’t over yet.” Sadly, I fear it will be over sooner than most people think and the price will be so high that it will impact our progeny for generations.

  2. The real problem is that these days, it is not only these women who were given special treatment to make it through Ranger School. It is also tons of those officers mentioned or other invaluable mucky mucks too who are “too big to fail” and HAVE to make it through to progress. These women are just the icing on the crap cake of men who have now been making it through with preferential treatment and who would have never made it through otherwise or if they were just a simple lower enlisted guy. I think this article would have been better if it had been more focused on that general degradation first that has been huge and going on for a long while now before the females ever came into the picture. It has been going on ever since the Army and military in general drew up a plan to become a PC corporation type entity. That is the beginning of the onslaught. Try to corporatize being a soldier. What a total mess! The whole Army is on a landslide and going downhill fast!

  3. The fact is DOD is playing administrative slight of hand, so the women can say they passed Ranger School using the same standards as the men.

    In order to achieve this do what is called “sex norming” the standards. They implement the new standards prior to starting a class and the new standards are applied to everyone including the females.

    Doing it these way helps them avoid the political fallout that occurred after feminizing jump school.

  4. Wow, where do I even start? All of us know by now that war takes many shapes and forms. The recent wars that we’ve been involved in have pitted us against hybrid, non-conventional threats: against non-state actors that don’t fight along a “front” in the conventional sense. Hence, all soldiers, male or female, independent of their MOS, no matter what mission they are executing, whether they are assaulting an objective or running combat trains must be prepared to confront the enemy on the battlefield. Thus, who knows for certain what soldiers do or do not need these skill sets? Also, why wouldn’t you want to spread the spirit of what it means to wear the tab across the Army? Although the school is grounded in light infantry tactics, it is much more than an infantry school. It is about leadership, grit, endurance, and perseverance. These are traits that can be applied to anywhere in our Army. (Also, as a side note, whether it is a leadership school or an infantry school has nothing to do with why the Sergeants Major Academy doesn’t manage this school)

    Having commanded in Afghanistan before, I can say my female soldiers and non-combat MOSs executed foot patrols all of the time just like any other good infantryman/combat arms type. No special treatment involved. They were subjected the same suck and fear of getting blown up/shot at that we all faced. So why would it be so egregious to allow these soldiers the chance to go to ranger school as well? We simply cannot forsee when our soldiers might be confronted with taking responsibility of and executing tasks outside of their specialty/MOS. I say the more ranger-tabbed folks we have the better. I do not agree that allowing soldiers outside of combat MOSs and females to attend ranger school as being an example of the leadership lacking intestinal fortitude to stand up for what is right.

    The argument that we shouldn’t allow females to serve in combat arms roles because other nations won’t take it well doesn’t hold water. Should we allow what other countries think about our Army, the best Army in the world, to dictate how our Army operates? First, our Army isn’t just an army, it’s a beacon of our American ideals. We use our Army for so much more than fighting and blowing stuff up. Through the example that the Army sets and the manner in which it conducts itself, it affects what we see as positive change throughout the world. This is a critical way in which we strategically influence the world around us.

    Following the author’s logic of not doing something because it conflicts culturally with our partners/adversaries, you could say that we shouldn’t promote minorities because other countries might frown upon it. With that same reasoning, I guess you could also say that because most of the world’s armies are officer dominated and don’t empower their NCOs to extent that we do, we should reduce the role NCOs in our Army. However, to actually argue for these things would be ridiculous and counterproductive. Do these cultural differences cause the US irreparable strategic damage? No, they don’t. A lot of countries attempt to emulate what we’ve built within our Army despite it being “different” because they see where we are and want to be there themselves. Besides, women from all over the Army and the rest of American society already interface directly with the rest of the international community from positions of power and have been doing so for quite some time now. Thus, to say that allowing females serve in combat arms roles and go to our beloved ranger school endangers our strategic standing in the world because it might not be taken well by the “male dominated” international community is also ridiculous and counterproductive.

    The author is entitled to his opinion of course but I would be amiss to let that one float on by without presenting my counterargument. Either way, less we forget, RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!

    btw, i’m ranger tabbed and have deployed to both iraq and afghanistan.

  5. I submitted my package for Ranger school three times when I was still in the Infantry as an NCO over a period of years. I was bumped from the list by staff in HQ (officers) each time (fxxking POGs). My PT was excellent throughout and I was ready. Our unit was last to know and never placed priority for slots. That was then, this is now… I’m not a “Ranger” nor was I “Ranger tabbed” my hat is off to those that had the opportunity and passed. One of my regrets in the military not being able to get to that “leadership school”. Bottom line is; I’m not in a position to criticize these people or pass judgement. I can assure you at 54 there’s no way my old fat azz could do what those females did. It’s a bitter pill to swallow (ego sucks) but congratulations to both of them, they were 10% of the original group that started. That’s a 10% roughly; 2 out of 19 who trained hard for months in advance. That attrition rate is much higher than the males. Same, reduced, modified or otherwise the standards I wouldn’t have passed. I’ve heard some folks that are not in that club run their mouths giving all types of opinions. If your not in the club I don’t think your opinion counts for much. As a basic line grunt and small unit leader I paid my dues in the Infantry battalion the old fashion way. I don’t trust the higher command or officers AT ALL but I do trust those SNCOs on the ground and their integrity. I’ve given this a lot of thought…the world is changing rapidly, I gotta evolve and adapt or it eats you / me up. There are some things we have no control over nor do we know all the facts. We gotta have faith and trust, which is very hard in this modern society but it’s what gives us mental stability and solid foundation.

    People are getting wrapped around the axle about physical standards and abilities. Women & men through modern training methods and advancement of physical human development are doing amazing things. Amazing things, way beyond what I thought was attainable when I was still in the game…my past life ;). My old unit in LE just had our first female pass our basic SWAT school in twenty years. She now moves on to phase 2 and 3 in the process. She can do more pull ups (27 BTW) shoot as good as any man or better and run faster, and in fact she fireman carried men in full gear during training and it was recorded. I have never ever seen anything like it, ever! I was floored and amazed. Physical ability and performance is not the issue or the matter with regard to integration of females into the Infantry. The factors in my opinion go way beyond that simple answer. Mother nature and biology as well as sociology are entirely different matters. But I’m sure we will soon see females in the infantry battalion in the Army. Whether we like it or not… I’m stone dead set against acceptance of females in the Infantry. I know this won’t be popular or accepted but I think females have more of a place in SF or the SEALs. Those are mature professionals, the job requirements and demands are high. The support for them and the missions are much different then the Infantry from my experience. This is just all bad if women move into the Infantry / combat arms.

    I’m sure if I had your military history & background I would feel exactly the same way. My opinion with regard to Females and Ranger school is not in my lane. I’m not a member of that club. As fro the Infantry and combat arms MOSs… NO GO!

  6. Dear sirs, I’m a Vietnam era vet, who now has a daughter E-6 Sgt with a mos. as MI. She should mostly be in a rear area in time of any conflict. I would not like her being in a front area, like some of those Rangers will always be or be in a special forces (covert) . What would happen if she was captured (FUBAR), how do you think she would be treated, the guys will catch hell, but what about your daughter, talk about a can of worms. Most of our political people in congress have never even seen a uniform much less worn one, that’s what’s wrong with being PC. Mark my words the first time some of these women get captured IT WILL NOT BE A PRETTY SITUATION, all hell will break out back here in the US. Then we can send the PC people in to save them, then they can be FIRED from that PC job that they know nothing about, put them on the front lines—-seehow they like that. Do you think ZERO could pass Ranger School ? Much less basic training like we went thru at FT. Benning… Thanks, SCW

  7. I have to agree with Danimal. Women have been serving capably in combat and Special Operations for years now. Some women are studs. I’ve served alongside them, and with zero shame, I admit there have been a few women who have destroyed the guys in the unit–Special Operations professionals, mind you–in things like rucking, shooting, and crossfit. Many times, the mission was a lot easier to accomplish with females, because pretty girls have a way of making people do things that an entire team of heavily armed, 0% bodyfat SEALs couldn’t convince them to do. That’s just facts. Sure, many women don’t belong in the infantry or Special Operations, and many could never earn a Ranger tab, but then again many men don’t belong in Special Operations or couldn’t earn a ranger tab either. If Ranger school helps develop soldiers into better leaders, then everyone in the army should have a chance to earn a slot. We need leaders at all levels, across all MOS’s–not just in the infantry. It’s one thing I’ve always respected about Marines: whether MARSOC or cook, all Marines are Marines first, and they don’t need tabs and badges to earn respect from peers. They earn that respect by displaying competence and confidence every day. In any case, we only wear badges on our uniforms in garrison anyways, and when you’re never in garrison and two-thirds of the guys are sister service, I could care less whether or not you have a ranger tab so long as you can do your job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *