Lawson: Female Rangers lead the way

Angelica Lawson

When they said, “Rangers lead the way,” they weren’t kidding. The Army is the first branch of the military to allow female soldiers to apply and train in one of our nation’s most elite programs. This month the army has been all over the news for its progressive initiatives to seek a more equal military.

For the first time in Army history, women are able to apply for the elite. This is a privilege that has been denied to women even though they have been involved in combat since 2001, but in 2013, the Pentagon said it would be integrating women into jobs that they have from which they have been previously barred.

On Aug. 20, two women graduated from the United States Army Ranger School. They are some of the first women to attempt the training, and the first to successfully complete the training.

When the 62-day Ranger School session began in April, there were only 381 men and 19 women. Only 94 men and two women graduated. Although women can now attend Ranger School, they still cannot apply to serve as rangers because these positions remain unavailable to women.

These two women play a monumental role in the growth of women’s careers in the military. By January 2016, restrictions will be removed from Army jobs that have barred women from obtaining them. Senior commanders have until Jan. 16 to ask for exemptions for the positions they feel female military personnel are not properly equipped to perform. The Army’s new chief of staff, General Mark Milley, has yet to announce what he will be recommending to the Secretary of Defense.

It is really a yes or a no at this point; he only has four months before the integration exemptions need to be filed. This is a very big and important decision for the new chief of staff, but his recommendation could be the deciding factor for the growth of female personnel.

Ranger School is the first to allow female applicants into an elite, military force training program. The Navy recently announced that it will open up the elite Navy SEAL teams to women who can pass the SEAL training program. The Navy has not released a date of when the program will start allowing women to apply.

This is a win for women everywhere, not just for women who serve in the armed forces. The fact that the Army started this and now another branch is doing the same thing is great for breaking down the barriers that have been placed in front of women inside and outside of the military.

The issue here is why women have not been able to apply for jobs based solely on the fact that they are female. Women have been serving in the armed forces since the Revolutionary War as secret soldiers, nurses, laundresses and other various positions, and then the Combat Exclusion Policy was lifted. This policy barred women from exposure to ground combat zones. Because of this, one would assume that women would have been able to apply for the positions that they wanted back in 1994, but, sadly, they were not. If you meet all the requirements, why should you not be able to apply for the job that you want and would be capable of doing?

The movement for equality among the sexes is fantastic, but why has it taken so long? If women have been able to engage in field combat since 2001, why is it just now in 2015 that they are allowed to obtain prominent job assignments and attend elite training programs? Why can they go to these training schools but not serve their country as a specialist? If the women in the military are just as qualified as the men to go into head-to-head combat and die for their country the same way, then they should not be treated as second-class soldiers.

The solution to the current issue is pretty simple. End all discrimination in the military. End the laws that inhibit women from doing anything job related. Women are just as qualified to do these jobs, and they should be afforded every opportunity as the the opposite sex to grow their careers. Since the Department of Defense has announced the removal of these restrictions, four branches of the military have opened up about 91,000 jobs in the span of two-and-a-half years. However, there are still more than 250,000 jobs that are still closed to women throughout the armed forces and 25,700 in special operations.

When the integration deadline comes and all of the exemptions are in, the Department of Defense should do the right thing and end the on-going discrimination of its female soldiers. If you are a qualified applicant and pass the required training, your gender is not a reason for why you should not have the opportunity to serve our country as you wish. Creating a military that is free of limitations should be the goal of all branches — women are not the lesser sex and should not be treated as if they are.