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Ranger standards should be same for women, veterans say

A ranger stands ready with his gear while participating in the mountain training course at Dahlonega, Ga., on April 12, 2009.

Army Rangers who served in Vietnam and as instructors at Fort Benning are concerned that standards may drop if women are allowed to train for the elite fighting force.

Rangers voiced their concerns in response to an Associated Press report that women may be able to start training as Army Rangers by 2015 and Navy SEALs by 2016. According to details of the plan obtained by the Associated Press, women and men would have to meet the same mental and physical standards to qualify for certain infantry, armor, commando and other front-line positions across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Bob Dawes, president of Worldwide Army Rangers based in Columbus, and retired 1st Sgt. David Lockett of Columbus are concerned about the training standards used with women in the ranks.

Dawes wants to see how women perform while they're going through the Ranger school.

"As long as they are required to meet the same qualifications as anybody else that goes through the school and achieve the same score without any undue consideration because of gender, I will say I'll wait and see what the outcome is," Dawes said. "If they start to change the scoring system or the way they are treated in the school, then I would totally be against it."

Lockett, who served two tours in Vietnam and 12 years as an instructor, said he's not worried about individuals as long as the Army keeps the same standards.

"I see a lot of changes coming about in our military," Lockett said. "I do know that special operations is an elite organization which requires not only a mental attitude, but you have to have standards."

Lockett questioned whether the Army will keep the number of pushups and distance running the same or will those standards be reduced to allow women in the ranks?

"As long as they meet the standards for both parties, leave it one way," Lockett said. "Standards can't be changed for an individual."

During his training, Lockett said a soldier with his gear was blindfolded before jumping into a pool off a 3-meter diving board. In the water, the soldier was required to remove the gear and swim to the surface safely.

"Those are the requirements as a prerequisite," Lockett said. "I think we have to prepare ourselves for whatever comes."

Only 40 percent of the soldiers who begin Ranger School complete the nine weeks of grueling training to become Rangers. After graduation, they are able to execute missions in a variety of challenges on difficult terrain.

"More than half of the people that try to go through the school do not make it," Dawes said. "These are people who are aware of everything that needs to be accomplished and go through courses and have the ability to be recycled, yet they still don't have the ability to make it through."

The standards should not change for women, Dawes said. "From a Ranger's perspective, they should have to live up to every standard that is required of Rangers today, not an abbreviated course that is mandated to pass for some political reason," he said. "That is my opinion."

Bill Spies, a retired major who served in Vietnam and as a Ranger Instructor at Benning, said there is so much upper body strength needed in training that women would not meet the standards.

"I think the physical standards are going to have to be lowered for the women or it won't be effective to send them down here," Spies said. "There is so much upper body work we do in the Ranger Department in Ranger Training Brigade that not many of them will be able to meet that physical standard."

On the leadership side, Spies said female commissioned officers and enlisted women need something similar to Ranger School because many are competitive and able to do many things. "What bothers me is they are going to lower the physical standards for the men," he said.

A soldier has no business being in training if he can't live up to the expectations of the Ranger, Dawes said. Women need to be made fully aware of what's expected at the school.

"I wish them luck," Dawes said. "It's going to take special people to make it through that course as it is with men."
 

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