FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM/CNN) – For the first time in history, an Army Ranger class includes women. The class is currently training at Fort Benning in Georgia.
The Army Ranger School is one of the toughest programs in the military, and this obstacle course tests a person’s physical limits like none other.
At first glance, this all looks like a pretty normal day on the rough terrain of the grueling Darby Queen obstacle course but this day is historic.
The sights and sounds give you chills. For the first time, women joined the 200-plus men for this elite school for Ranger training.
19 women passed a two-week Ranger Training Assessment Course to even get a shot at making it to this point. During this Camp Darby obstacle course, eight were still standing.
“Secretly sense of pride and I say ‘secretly’ because we can’t really cheer these females on. It’s definitely a humbling experience to sit back and get a chance to see these women come through,” Staff Sergeant Cynthia Velarde said.
32-year-old SSG Velarde is one of 28 women who was brought in as what’s called an Observer/Advisors (O/A).
They’ve been observing and assessing classes for the past few months and been an extra set of eyes and ears to ensure the standards still remain the same during the process to help prepare for this. The theme across the board, no standards have changed to accommodate women in the program.
“Once the class started, we expected to see something maybe a little bit different but it hasn’t been. It’s been just like normal. These females have volunteered to come here. They want to be Ranger students just like the rest of them and they’re doing very well,” Sergeant First Class Gerald Nelson said.
What has changed are things outside of training. They assessed how females would use the bathrooms, their changing situations and shower times among others.
“Everything’s running smoothly, I think it’s a little different. Some of the women are fine with the way it’s set up because they are kind of sectioned off, even though they’re in the barracks, by wall lockers to allow a little bit of privacy,” SFC Nelson explains.
If and when these women finish the 61-day Ranger School, they receive a Ranger tab, just as the men would… although their options after that are still being assessed at the top levels.
“Females have proven in the last decade or longer that we do serve in combat,” Captain Mel Burroni said.
The Darby Queen obstacle course has 26 obstacles that you crawl, claw, climb, run, roll, grind, swing and slide through and every emotion pours out of you literally through blood, sweat and tears.
“You can’t measure someone’s heart. I’ve seen some of the biggest, strongest, muscled up men come through here and their heart is just not into it. They’re just not mentally strong enough to get through this course; I’ve seen 100-pound men come through here and make it through no problem,” SFC Nelson said.
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