The pending graduation from the Army’s elite Ranger School by two female Soldiers (and their male co-graduates) is an occasion for sending, on behalf of the JAA, a hearty “Congratulations!” for their outstanding accomplishment. As an Army Ranger, and the first Judge Advocate assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment in the mid-1980s, I think I can speak to some of the impact this achievement may have on our Army and our Military in general.
The key point about Ranger School is that it is Leader development through uniquely realistic and demanding training. Yes, it is organized and designed around small unit combat tasks that are mostly infantry in nature and not necessarily applicable to all students attending Ranger School, whether Army Soldiers or those from the other Military Services. Although the technical training and tactical knowledge gained by the Ranger students are important, what is vastly more important is the exposure to and development of leadership skills in a tremendously demanding environment which transcends small unit application, and which are relevant and applicable to leaders in numerous situations and at every level. Presuming the Army assesses this “test” as successful and continues to permit qualified women to volunteer to attend like their male counterparts, the Army will gain from the enhanced skills and capabilities that these Rangers will bring to their gaining units and to the Army at large.
That is the purpose of Ranger School, not so much for the individual development, although that is important, but for the unit and organizational enhancement produced by sending these students through this school – or any other school in any of the Military Services for that matter. We want units to be smarter, better, and more capable and we want the entire organization to be smarter, better, and more capable. Of course, I may be a little biased, but having a few more Rangers in the Army, regardless of gender, can only help achieve that goal!
Another “of course” is that Ranger School is not for everyone, irrespective of gender. Otherwise, it would hardly be considered the elite training that it is. From our view in the Military Legal Community it was rare when we sent Judge Advocates to Ranger School. I don’t expect that to change much. But I know this – I certainly worked with female JAs who were every bit as mentally and physically tough as their male colleagues, and tough enough to go to and complete Ranger School, had the opportunity been afforded them.
So, kudos to the Army for opening this distinguished Army training to women; kudos to the women Rangers for persevering; and kudos to their Ranger classmates for assisting them throughout. One other thing I know is that you cannot get through Ranger School on your own.
Where this leads and what it means for our Army and other military services is not fully known and must be left to those who have the opportunity to make the most of it. Still, it is a confirmation of our continued understanding that our female Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines are capable and courageous – just like their brothers-in-arms. But, of course, you and I knew that and have witnessed and experienced it for many years!
Just like our serving Judge Advocates support their Commanders, military personnel and their units - and these new Rangers - your association, the JAA, stands in support of all Judge Advocates as they continue to serve our Nation around the world.
Rangers Lead the Way!
Daniel V. Wright
Major General, U.S. Army (Ret)
Judge Advocates Association