People Magazine (not exactly a rabid conservative source) reports that the two female candidates successfully passing US Army Ranger School for the first time last April had more than a little special help.
[T]he women got special treatment and played by different rules,” sources say.
Ranger School consists of three phases: Benning, which lasts 21 days and includes water survival, land navigation, a 12-mile march, patrols, and an obstacle course; Mountain Phase, which lasts 20 days, and includes assaults, ambushes, mountaineering and patrols; and Swamp Phase, which lasts 17 days and covers waterborne operations.
But whereas men consistently were held to the strict standards outlined in the Ranger School’s Standing Operating Procedures handbook sources say, the women were allowed lighter duties and exceptions to policy.
Multiple sources told PEOPLE:
â€¢ Women were first sent to a special two-week training in January to get them ready for the school, which didn’t start until April 20. Once there they were allowed to repeat the program until they passed â€“ while men were held to a strict pass/fail standard.
â€¢ Afterward they spent months in a special platoon at Fort Benning getting, among other things, nutritional counseling and full-time training with a Ranger.
â€¢ While in the special platoon they were taken out to the land navigation course â€“ a very tough part of the course that is timed â€“ on a regular basis. The men had to see it for the first time when they went to the school.
â€¢ Once in the school they were allowed to repeat key parts â€“ like patrols â€“ while special consideration was not given to the men.
â€¢ A two-star general made personal appearances to cheer them along during one of the most challenging parts of the school, multiple sources tell PEOPLE.
The end result? Two women â€“ First Lts. Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver â€“ graduated August 21 (along with 381 men) and are wearing the prestigious Ranger Tab. Griest was surprised they made it.
“I thought we were going to be dropped after we failed Darby [part of Benning] the second time,” Griest said at a press conference before graduation. “We were offered a Day One Recycle.”
At their graduation, Maj Gen. Scott Miller, who oversees Ranger School, denied the Army eased its standards or was pressured to ensure at least one woman graduated.
“Standards remain the same,â€ Miller said, according to The Army Times. “The five-mile run is still five miles. The 12-mile march is still 12 miles.
“There was no pressure from anyone above me to change standards,” said Miller, who declined to speak to PEOPLE.
Instructors say otherwise.
“We were under huge pressure to comply,” one Ranger instructor says. “It was very much politicized.”
The women didn’t want or ask for special treatment, says one who attempted the program.
“All of us wanted the same standards for males and females,” Billi Blaschke, who badly injured her ankle only six days into a required pre-assessment program, tells PEOPLE. “We wanted to do it on our own.”
On September 2, the Army announced that Ranger School is now open both to men and women.
Read the whole thing.