Updated 10:10 p.m. ET
On Friday, two female lieutenants will make history as the first women to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School, a grueling 62-day training program required for admittance into the elite Ranger Regiment.
The women are Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver, and here is what we know about their training and other things Ranger-related:
What does it mean to have a Ranger tab on one’s uniform?
A Ranger tab, according to the Army, is “a mark of distinction in the military and civilian community and proof positive of proven leadership under the toughest conditions possible.”
Practically, it is a badge that a member of the Army receives when he or she graduates from Ranger School. It is worn on the uniform to signal that an individual has graduated from the school. Once a soldier has that distinction, he or she either returns to regular assignment duty or applies to serve with the 75th Ranger Regiment, according to Army spokesman Nate Snook. In the case of the new female graduates, they are not allowed to apply as the rules stand today.
What is the 75th Ranger Regiment?
Despite its name, there is only one Ranger Regiment. Comprising approximately 3,500 troops, the regiment is “the world’s premier light infantry fighting force, specializing in raids and assault missions deep inside enemy-held territory. An expert in short-notice combat deployments, the Ranger Regiment is a rapidly deployable strike force and is the largest special operations combat element in the U.S. Army.”
For comparison’s sake, there are about 2,500 active-duty Navy SEALS.
Will the two women join the 75th regiment?
No, women are still not allowed to serve in combat roles in the U.S. Army. Griest and Haver, both West Point graduates, will return to their regular duty assignments, Snook says.
What do you have to do to pass Ranger School?
The training includes a “physical fitness test consisting of 49 push-ups, 59 sit-ups, a 5 mile run in 40 minutes, and six chin-ups; a swim test; a land navigation test; a 12-mile foot march in three hours; several obstacle courses; four days of military mountaineering; three parachute jumps; four air assaults on helicopters; multiple rubber boat movements; and 27 days of mock combat patrols.”
Was the training modified for the women?
No, there are no modifications for gender in Ranger School.
I heard the women were “recycled.” What does that mean?
When a soldier in Ranger School fails to complete a task in the first or second attempt, he or she is “recycled” into the next class of Ranger trainees. Of the 19 women who started Ranger School with the class called 06-15 on April 20, all 19 were recycled after the first phase into the next class, 07-15. Of the 381 men who began with 06-15, about half were recycled after the first phase, according to Snook. In the women’s second attempt on the first phase, three women passed, and five were dropped from Ranger School. Of those three, two went on to graduate (after recycling one more time each during the mountain test) and the third is still in Ranger School.
Does anybody make it through without recycling at all?
Only about 20 percent of graduates complete Ranger School without recycling. Approximately 34 percent of students recycle at least once.
Is there a limit on how many times you can recycle?
No. Students can be dropped from Ranger School due to things like injury or lack of motivation, but healthy, motivated trainees can repeat tests as many times as it takes to be successful. Snook says this perseverance mentality is part of being a Ranger.
So how long does it usually take to graduate?
The graduation time varies, although Snook says it could take up to six or eight months. It took the women four months to complete the training.
What’s next for women in the armed forces?
Women were admitted to Ranger School as part of the Pentagon’s efforts to determine whether women can be assigned ground-combat roles. NPR’s Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman reports that Army and Marine Corps leaders are still deciding whether they’ll let women serve in ground combat jobs beginning in January, or ask for a waiver that would keep those jobs closed. Any final decision, though, rests with Defense Secretary Ash Carter. The service chiefs are expected to meet with Carter as early as next month.