Remember Shannon Faulkner? In 1995, Faulkner was the first woman to enroll at the Citadel following a federal court order. I remember Faulkner. I was a high school student at the time and I closely followed her court case. Even though I personally had no intention of attending a military academy or enlisting in the military, I cheered on Faulkner and her right to try. Her right to follow her dream. Her right to prove herself against the male students.
Twenty years later, I find myself again cheering on those female pioneers in the military. The ones who are working to break gender barriers to prove that they are tough enough, strong enough and smart enough to call themselves Army Rangers.
Media outlets, from NPR to Fox News, have been closely following 60 women who volunteered and were allowed to participate in the two-week-long Ranger Training Assessment Course (RTAC) that ended on Jan. 31. This first class was aimed at making the training standard for females. And I’m a big believer in that.
Let’s not sell women short by adopting lower standards to earn the Ranger tab. Every single Ranger should be able to meet the same qualifications.
Out of 122 soldiers who started RTAC, 48 percent passed. There were 43 male dropouts in addition to the 21 women, the Army Times reported. Five women, all officers, completed RTAC, which is considered to be a reliable litmus test for which soldiers are likely to have a chance at passing the Ranger Course.
Last December, for the first time, 3 women passed the Marine Corps’ physical test to become infantry officers. Two dozen female Marines have tried to pass the test since the course opened its doors to women in 2012. Later this year, U.S. Special Operations Command and Naval Special Warfare are expected to announce if the rank of SEAL will be available to women.
All this female integration stems from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement in 2012 to open combat positions to women. In 2013, he lifted the military’s exclusion on women in direct ground combat. By 2016, the military must open all combat jobs to women or ask for special exceptions.
Twenty years after Faulkner’s legal battle, I am even more emotionally attached to integrating females into all aspects of the military. Today I’m a Navy wife and I’ve seen my husband work alongside and under the outstanding leadership of women all the way up to Rear Admiral Katherine Gregory. Gregory is the first female flag officer in the Civil Engineer Corps.
I’m also the mother of 2 young girls who are constantly asking if boys are better than girls. Just last night, my daughter asked if girls can be Seabees. Of course, my husband and I reassured her. Girls can do anything that boys can do. Some day soon, they will even be able to serve as Army Rangers.