US's elite Army Ranger School has its first two women graduates - but is it a PR exercise?

The Pentagon has struggled for years with the issue of equal roles for men and women

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The Independent US

Two women soldiers have made history by becoming the first to graduate from the army’s tough and demanding Ranger School. But it remains unclear what sort of combat role the women will play.

The US army announced late on Monday that the women had passed out from the school and wold be first to earn the celebrated special-forces credential.

They are due to pass out on Friday along with 94 male colleagues at a graduation ceremony at Fort Benning, Georgia.

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A female Ranger students with her team during an exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida

 

All 96 soldiers completed the two-month course, though both women and some of the men had to re-take parts of it for failure in first attempt.

Ranger School students must pass through mountains and swamps on little food and sleep while performing demanding physical tasks including carrying more than 100 pounds of gear, the US military said.

Reports said the two successful graduates were part of a class of 19 women that went through the school as part of an Army assessment on whether to open special-forces and other elite units to women. The army reportedly plans a second round of female recruits in the fall.

“Congratulations to all of our new Rangers,” Army Secretary John McHugh said in a statement.

“Each Ranger School graduate has shown the physical and mental toughness to successfully lead organisations at any level. This course has proven that every soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential.”

Yet the Pentagon is not expected to make a final decision about exactly what combat roles women will be allowed to fill until later this year. CNN said that unlike the male graduates, the two women cannot apply to join the 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite special operations force.

America has struggled for a number of years with the issue of trying to fully induct women into the armed forces, an effort that featured with varying degrees of seriousness in films such as Private Benjamin and GI Jane.

In January 2013, the Pentagon formally lifted a ban on women serving in combat positions. It gave the various elements of the armed forces until 2016 to explain how it would implement the move, or seek exception.

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