Friday, November 13, 2015

Slippery Slope: Ranger Class, 2015

--G. I. Jane (1997) 

I'm strictly a female female
And my future I hope will be
 In the home of a brave and free male
Who'll enjoy being a guy 
having a me  
--I Enjoy Being a Girl
Flower Drum Song
I feel dizzy
I feel sunny
I feel fizzy and funny and fine
And so pretty
Miss America can just resign 
--I Feel Pretty
West Side Story 

 Hey, little girl, comb your hair,
fix your make-up, soon he will open the door,
Don't think because there's a ring on your finger,
you needn't try any more 
--Wives and Lovers,
Burt Bacharach

When we were kids, "Your mother wears Army boots" was about the worst insult we could muster.  Now, it's just another day in the office for female military members.

In the march to equality (androgyny?), this year saw the first three female graduates from Ranger school. Ranger agrees with those who feel that the admission of females will lower the standards of Infantry combat training as well as the effectiveness of combat units But he also believes Ranger training was being degraded long before women entered the school.

Ranger's Ranger experience (referred to henceforth as "RR") was a far cry from today's climate-controlled living experience. Barracks were uninsulated and unheated in the depth of winter; windows were nailed open.

Ranger School had no niceties. RR's candidates were allowed five minutes in the mess hall, so a meal consisted mainly of  what you could stuff in your field jacket pockets, like Hoffman's grubby "Ratso Rizzo" in Midnight Cowboy. That is probably not the case today, as the candidates all looked clean and rested when Ranger had an opportunity to view the camp several years ago. The men from RR's looked like extreme reality show escapees.

They traveled to Mountain Ranger Camp (MRC) in 2 1/2 ton truck with canvas top, freezing in the wind chill of a North Georgia winter. They lived in primitive huts. The showers were cold, and there was a central latrine. They seldom slept more than four hours, and usually that was in the field with only a sleeping bag cover allowed. Rations were C-type.

Compare Ranger school's 2015 three-hour, 12-mile forced march component (the same standard that a non-elite group like female MP basic trainees had to meet 30 years ago) to RR's 19-mile forced march off 1968 with rucksacks and all normally carried TO&E equipment.

The forced march requirement now is only 60% of the 1968 standard. (Note: RR's 1968 training was a degradation still from that of basic line unit training in WWII, when the 2/506/101 performed a 56-mile forced march from Toccoa, GA to Atlanta.) RR's required five-mile run and all p.t. was done in 2-lb boots, not sneakers. His medics gave the men Darvon 600's so they could numb themselves during the day. 

Why the degradation in training? Is it because today's All Volunteer Army does not need to be as tough?

The female Ranger graduates were recycled more than once (having not passed previous classes.) Though recycling was not uncommon in Ranger's experience, only one attempt at recycling was allowed, and it was never at Camp Darby, the patrolling component (as it was with these females) 

Why did they all the women fail at Darby? When RR's arrived they were branch-qualified and knew patrolling and how to use all TO&E equipment and weaponry. Darby was simply a polishing endeavor. There were no recycles at Darby because it was too early to identify the need for remediation.

Ranger school training has been degraded, and now women (with a little help from their friends) will be passing through. And though they will be assigned to units, it is doubtful that will ever be used as combat multipliers in actual Infantry combat scenarios.

These female Ranger's were raised with tough and buff movie characters like Lara Croft and G.I. Jane. Our all-inclusive society is allowing them to realize their dreams, but at what cost will this EOE effort come?

[Cross-posted @ MilPub.]


  1. To be fair, long marches on foot are a thing of the past. A one-mile run in full equipment is much more meaningful nowadays than a long march or forced march.

    I remember you complained about physical damage, blaming it on sit-ups. Maybe that damage was done by nowadays irrelevant endurance training as well...

  2. Back in the Corps in the early 60s, a group of us were having the time honored bull session about how much tougher Boot Camp was "in our days". Our Gunnery Sgt said, "This conversation has been going on since the birth of our beloved Corps. Recently, scientists at HQMC did an extrapolation of these stories and determined that if Boot Camp has gotten progressively softer over the years, in the manner Marines describe, Boot Camp rigors resulted in a 100% fatality rate until 1832."

    Just a bit of humor from The Old Corps.

    Both operational necessity and public policy have had an impact on military training standards from as far back as who knows when. During 1969 & 1970, the demand for new Warrant Officer Helicopter pilots to fill seats in RVN was so great that we produced a significant number of very weak Aviators. Let them be recycled several times until they final got enough right to graduate. Went from a historic attrition rate of near 50% to under 10%. These guys simply occupied the co-pilot seat and were not allowed to do anything beyond their ability. Where the typical Huey driver finished his RVN tour with about 1200 hours or so, at least 60% of which was as Aircraft Commander, the "Sandbags", as they were called, came home with 300 - 500 hours, without ever logging AC time. A lot of these guys really meant well, but had just been effectively lied to when told they "graduated". We, in the field, both RVN and elsewhere simply had to do the best we could with them.

  3. SO,
    i don't "complain"i discuss.
    i accept every bit of damage that my body has endured b/c that is what soldiering means.
    why do we need women to endure such animal behavior?
    a 1 mile run with equipment is not enuf to produce core strength needed for combat endeavors.

  4. Aviator,
    The line infantry of ww2 trained harder than any modern ranger student.
    I assume that you read Band of Brothers which amplifies this point.
    recently a 26 yo sf soldier told me about the heavy use of steroids in his unit to make the men able to endure the muscle requirements of the job.
    another paratrooper told me that the soldiers are washing out in their 30's b/c of jumping with heavy loas, especially the body armor. they blow out their knees and backs.
    why do we want women to play in those sand boxes?

  5. You know the "why" as well as I do, Jim; it's the same "why" that forced the Army to integrate non-whites in the Fifties. The "right to bear arms" is an essential part of citizenship in a republic. To be relegated to support arms is to be a second-class citizen. At least, that is the argument for this.

    And the U.S. is never again going to field 90+ infantry divisions. The quality of our individual infantrymen (or women) is something the Army can be ordered to fiddle with; the existence of the nation not being seen as dependant on a uniformly high-quality infantry. As an infantryman you can disagree...but that doesn't change the relative importance of the competing objectives.

  6. Chief,

    "You know the "why" as well as I do, Jim; it's the same "why" that forced the Army to integrate non-whites in the Fifties. The "right to bear arms" is an essential part of citizenship in a republic. To be relegated to support arms is to be a second-class citizen. At least, that is the argument for this."
    This is not the full picture. The right to be a full member was a part of some arguments, but ultimately there were strong reasons to think that integrating our military units on racial lines would benefit our military. All black units performed worse as a result of the segregation and the need to have separate facilities and units was inefficient. Racial integration was done because prejudiced opinion threatened national security and the ultimate well-being of the military and the nation (as a result).

    The current gender conversation is entirely based on individual needs for ultimate self-expression. I've heard no one claim that getting women into front-line infantry units actually will help the Army win wars. No one gives a shit about winning wars. I have major problems with that and I think that this is going to be yet another clusterfuck because the only way it will not be is if the Army is actually good at finding the women who a) can do the job and b) want to do the job.
    My experience was that they couldn't manage that with just men. I knew so many combat leaders that were not right for that position and plenty of support guys that only wanted that experience. Big Brother A cannot treat people on an individual basis as it is currently configured but will have to do that in order to get women in combat units right.
    I am going to guess that it'll "happen" and some contractors will make a bundle off all the equipment/facility changes that need to occur. I expect that 20 years from now, though, female infantry platoon leaders will still be black swans and they will be very much like Aviator's "Sandbag" pilots. Most female infantry officers will go to staff just like the female artillery officers do today.

    PF Khans

    1. Read the military journals, op-eds, letters to the editor, and memoirs of the officers of the Forties, PF; there was a HELL of a lot of disagreement with the notion that integration would "benefit our military" or, for that matter, that the problems with units like the 92nd Division were because of segregation. A hell of a lot of white Americans in 1948 believed that blacks were just cowardly buffoons who couldn't fight, that a white man shouldn't have to live and work alongside a black man. The entire country was based on separate facilities and units, inefficiency be damned. The US public largely felt the same way; that, as George Wallce said; "segregation now, segregation forever". Outside of a relatively small - admittedly growing, but still small in the Forties - group of advocates there was little or no public pressure for racial integration, for reasons of military effectiveness or any other reasons, for that matter.

      So, nope. Truman's order 9981 was pretty much social experimentation in its purest form. And its worth noting that although his order was issued in 1948 the Army's maneuver units were largely segregated until 1952-53 when attrition in Korea forced the infantry in particular to grab whatever warm bodies they could. Even then some units didn't integrate well and there was a critical minority of white officers and NCOs bitched and moaned about black troops until well into the Sixties.

      And the primary reasons for the push were social. Blacks couldn't be full citizens until they were seen as possessing both rights AND duties of citizens, including getting their asses shot off on some worthless hill in Korea...

      Mind you, I'm NOT making that argument about female combat arms integration. But that IS an argument that the proponents of this are making.

      That said, I tend to agree with you and Al that a huge component of this, and probably the single biggest component of the people pushing for it from the inside, is professional career advancement. Al's point is perhaps the single most salient; for an officer combat arms is the path to the stars and infantry is still considered the Queen of the combat arms. So for an ambitious officer the Paths of Glory lead through the Benning School for Boys and that tab is an important gong to ring. Hence the push from the inside.

      From the outside, tho, I suspect that most of the people pushing this see it as an "equality of opportunity" thing.

      And I stand by my original point; the big reason that the USAIS has been directed to go along with this is that DA "gets" that the mass of infantry is no longer an existential need for a US Army. Infantry has become a sort of boutique item, and like any boutique item it will tend to sprout useless ornamental geegaws. The US isn't going to be defended by masses of men with rifles anytime soon, so why the hell not let a few roses bloom amongst the thorns and make the female-equality and carrer-opportuunity carpers happy?

    2. Chief,

      You misunderstand my point. Of course there was debate over whether or not desegregation would prove effective. Of course racists claimed the sky would fall.
      I'm saying that those who proposed desegregation and advocated for it were not advocating for it in the name of "fuck it, we don't really need REALLY effective infantry anyways." They wanted a desegregated military because they expected that such an Army would be better, not just for black people, but for all of America. There was an expectation that the American Army would fight better overall.

      "From the outside, tho, I suspect that most of the people pushing this see it as an "equality of opportunity" thing."
      I think this is true and that is a problem for me. We are at war and we are doing quite poorly in all of those wars and its worth asking why "equality of opportunity" matters more than winning wars.

      I suspect that we exist in a state where winning and losing wars looks basically the same for most Americans. This is bad. There are people in this world who actually know how to win and we won't like losing in the future.

      "The US isn't going to be defended by masses of men with rifles anytime soon, so why the hell not let a few roses bloom amongst the thorns and make the female-equality and carrer-opportuunity carpers happy?"
      I know that we discarded history over 20 years ago, but I do not believe that humanity has actually changed much. I expect that such a time will come again.
      Neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism have promised that if we remove all the breaks and dismantle all safties everything will move faster and the reasons for having them in the first place are over. Color me skeptical.
      For what it's worth, I think we're arguing from similar positions.

      PF Khans

    3. No. No, no, no. There was NO argument, even at the time, that desegregation was or would be better FOR THE ARMY. That's just not true. Those pushing for integration sold it as a social good and better FOR blacks as a group and American society as a whole. There was never an argument in favor of military value and, given the performance of the 92nd and other segregated units the could not be.

      9981 was a purely civilian effort and promulgated over the objection of a lot of regular soldiers all the way up to the Army Staff.

    4. And where I think we really diverge is the point where you say "We are at war..."

      No. "We", We the People, we the American public, are not at war. Not even at "war on terror". Whatever the hell else "we" are, we're not at war.

      Elements of our armed forces are engaged, some in ground combat, in various ways, yes. For them it's war, yes. You and I both know the difference between their war and the wars of the 20th Century.

      And I'm willing to agree that the Third Gulf War was idiotic to begin with and impossible to "win" while the Umpteenth Afghan War is going no better than any of its predecessors, why on Earth would you attribute those problems to lack of quality in U.S. Army infantry? Surely you know as well as I do that the failure was strategic and geopolitical, not tactical.

      And, finally, let me say again; mass infantry is as dead for the U.S.Army as the dodo. Why? Two words; guerrillas, nukes.

      The only reasons for again fielding more than 4-5 infantry divisions would be 1) against a peer foe, and such a foe would likely have nukes. The risk of going nuclear means that even starting a ground war would be suicide. And, hopefully the failures of the RVN and Iraq and Afghanistan have convincingly shown that sending massed leg infantry to fight guerrilla forces in other's civil wars is a mug's game.

      In short, there are certainly valid arguments to make against gynoRangers...but losing demi-wars because of poor infantry quality really isn't one of them...

    5. Chief,

      I'm not wrong on this, check some sources:
      "Although integration of the armed forces seemed a miniscule issue within the larger international scene, the large number of African Americans in the military gave them a new importance in national defense. The black community represented ten percent of the country’s manpower, and this also influenced defense planning. Black threats to boycott the segregated armed forces could not be ignored, and civil rights demands had to be considered in developing laws relating to Selective Service and Universal Military Training."
      "Having made what could be justified as a military decision in the interest of a more effective use of manpower in the armed forces, the President and his advisers sought to capitalize on the political benefits that might result from it, such as the crucial black vote in the urban centers of the South."
      The effectiveness of the military and its ability to secure the nation was part of the decision to desegregate, and not a small part. It was also pushed because it was a social good, but the view that it was even primarily about that is largely based on a historical bias we have today that tends to want to make our very complicated and terrible racist past smoother than it really was.

      No one talked about the need to get women into infantry as a way to have a "more efficient use of (wo)manpower" No one gave a shit about efficiency. That is a problem.

      The military is more than a source of social goods and betterment. Treating it like that's all it is, is bad policy. Period.
      Last thing, I really hope you're right in your assessment about our wars of the future. I will be expremely pleased if everything stays at the demi-war level.

      In any case, I'll continue to say "we're at war" because I do count myself to be a part of the war and still connected enough with those in to think "we" makes sense, while also agreeing that the American "we" is not at war.

      PF Khans

    6. your own citation! "Having made WHAT COULD BE JUSTIFIED as a military decision..."...meaning it was not but could be spun as a military manpower move. Or your first citation? More or less admits up front that integration was largely a response to social concerns and politics.

      If getting black bodies into the ETO was such a priority why the hell did the 555PIR spend the war fighting fires in Oregon? If it was so crucial to improving the quality of the infantry why did it take Korean casualties to make it happen?

      You can cherry-pick text to try and make a distinction between advocating racial versus gender desegregation...but the Army worked fine with segregation. It just sucked if you were black.

      Sorry, man...I'm just not buying it. You want to argue this is different in EFFECT, I'm good with that. I'm saying you can't argue its different in INTENT.

    7. Chief,

      Here's what I can tell you:
      1) intent is very difficult to ascertain. Especially since we like to view history from the present and simplify the complexities of the past.
      2) the documents that are the cornerstone of the Desegregation Order and the historical context of the expansion of the US military from 1942-1948 supports the view that many people in the decision making circles of Washington were motivated by concerns that were more than just social agendas. They just do.
      I'll give you a link to Truman's Library link on the matter:

      You seem to be concerned with the fact that any outside agenda influencing the decision means that it's the same as the opening of certain parts of the military to women, but there is a major difference between saying "this is a military decision" even if it has other benefits and just saying "this decision has benefits, which may not be military." I object to that. I think the other benefits are good, but the military is the military.

      I'll try to make it a little clearer in case this failed:
      " "Having made WHAT COULD BE JUSTIFIED as a military decision..."...meaning it was not but could be spun as a military manpower move."
      That's a profoundly cynical liberal reading of those paragraphs. Another interpretation is that there were multiple reasons to make this decision and one of them was military. As far as I've found, there is no military benefit that's being raised here with the gender change. There are opportunity benefits and America feels better about the military in some vague way, but that's very different from the racial desegregation.
      The balloon had almost gone up in 1948, and 6 years prior the Marines weren't even letting black soldiers enlist. The Army and Navy were charged with occupying half the globe and it required more manpower than had previously been envisioned. These were major changes that required serious thought on how to accomplish serious national security challenges.

      Compare that with the 2013 decision. Women had been in for a long time. We had no pressing need for more combat troops to solve pressing national security needs. This decision was NEVER even remotely about the military necessities.

      As a result, it's different. They're not the same scenarios and we should consider the implications of them carefully. I worry that our political system has completely lost sight of the fact that our military has a serious role to play as defender of the body politic and it is now seen as either a holy shrine or some kind of social policy grounds.

      PF Khans

  7. It all falls back on the four magic words: - Force Structure and End Strength. During the Draft years, we simply lowered entrance requirements to get End Strength. And, we created the various Womens' Branches to help shape filling the force structure by "freeing a Man to Fight". Worked well enough to keep the WAC, etc, going post WWII as a "Regular" vs "Reserve" force.

    However, with the end of the Draft, the notion of military service subtly changed from a "responsibility" model, to an "opportunity" model. Hard to recruit and retain a couple of million folks based simply on painting the profession as one primarily of sacrifice. Better pay, better promotion opportunities, free civilian education, end to barracks life, etc, was all implemented to make service more attractive, and thus meet End Strength. Concurrently, in order to meet End Strength, we doubled the pool of eligibles by encouraging more women to serve, although initially, by restricting their duty assignments, to "Free Men to Fight". It just wasn't openly put that way.

    But there's a hitch. The military is a combat organization, and "opportunity" arises from Combat Arms assignments. If we need women to meet End Strength, but we tell them that having ovaries limits their opportunities, then we are imposing sacrifice on them that we are not imposing on Bubba. So we limit the pool of eligible women to those that are willing to sacrifice, but men have unfettered opportunity. Promotion opportunities to O-6 and E-7 and above are disproportionately more available in the Combat Arms. Limiting opportunity for women not only threatens End Strength, but runs counter to societal movement.

    Had we not become a military that hyped "opportunity", we may not be seeing this movement. But "opportunity" has been a recruiting and retention theme that has been embedded in the culture since 1972.

    1. Aviator,

      Isn't there a rule somewhere about not believing your own hype? Please tell me the military realizes that no one runs into enemy fire because of "opportunity"? While I was in, that was still pretty clear.
      I'm not implying that you endorse such a view, but it's madness to claim that a job that requires you to run face first into enemy fire is an "opportunity."

      Better add an O to LDRSHIP.

      PF Khans

    2. Plenty of soldiers have gone - and led others - into harm's way for "opportunity". Call it that, or "ambition", "career-enhancement"...the saying you're looking for is "reputation is gained in the cannon's mouth" which gives you an idea how long that sort of glory-hunting has been going on.

      The complaints of those who are pushing this is that by being held back from throwing the "death or glory" dice the non-external-genitalia component of the U.S. Army is being denied the opportunity of said glory and the rank that comes with it. Again, you can argue that that is a poor argument...but I don't see how you can argue that the argument is irrelevant or "hype". Ambition has been a part of military service since the first caveman boasted of the power of his mighty club-arm and will be long after the last bayonet is retired to table-knife duty.

    3. Chief,

      The Army isn't about opportunity the way a college education or a job with Nike is. They send the police after you if you don't show up. They force you to kill people in the infantry.

      The Army works best when there's opportunity but you do and die for duty and the guy next to you. I'm pretty sure a "career-enhancement" sort of leader is despised across the board in the Army. I hated serving under and with them and so did their soldiers. I'm not saying ambition is bad or hype, but I am saying that if the only argument you're making is due to ambition and opportunity, you've drunk your own koolaid.

      PF Khans

    4. But I'm saying you can't IGNORE that argument. If officer career is linked to branch and gongs like the Ranger tab (and it is) and you exclude a class of officers from those links...then you run into the "opportunity" issue Al brought up.

      I personally loathe the whole idea of military ambitions - thats why even tho I had a four-year degree when I stepped into my BCT barracks I stayed an EM and NCO my whole career. But I don't discount the motivation and the pressure it puts on officers. "Duty, Honor, Country" is nice n' all but it don't feed the bulldog if you get passed over for O-4.

      To pretend that "opportunity" and ambition don't matter in this issue is as misleading as claiming they trump everything else.

    5. PFKkhans, about 'opportunity':

      'Be, all that you can be, in todaaaaaayyyyys Army'

      Are you too young to remember those adds?


    6. Sorry for mispelling your name - iPad, on an elliptical machine - what could go wrong?


    7. Chief and Barry,

      I seem to be misunderstood. I'm not arguing that ambition isn't a part of this or that ambition shouldn't be applied as a marketing tool.

      I'm concerned that our political and military elite might actually believe the "be all you can be" bit about the Army. It's like a VW executive who sees his commercial and thinks "oh yeah, we really do make sexy cars that don't compromise on power or fuel efficiency."
      Did anyone ever actually feel like they could be all they could be while they were in?

      Being all you can be/ambition is necessary but it's not sufficient to maintain the force of arms. Our treatment of this issue, and my sole complaint here, is that we've shifted towards viewing ambition as being more or less necessary and sufficient. I disagree with that.

      PF Khans

  8. I wanted to expand a little on my reply to PFK's statement about how "we are at war".

    I think that what's crucial about understanding what's going on is understanding the physical reality of the United States in 2015 versus the rhetorical, intellectual, and emotional picture of the United States that most US citizens carry around in their heads.

    The reality is that the US is a de facto imperial Great Power in the military sense. U.S. armed forces are busy around the globe doing the sorts of things that the European powers used to do in the global hustings; "advising", training, and supplying client rulers, suppressing bush rebellions, spying and gathering information, patrolling the "commons" - sea lanes and land corridors.

    Some of these missions involve combat, and for those engaged in the fighting these little wars are just that; wars. It's disingenuous to call them something else. If I'm getting shot at I can tell you damn straight I'm in a fucking war.

    But...the U.S. and most U.S. citizens has a difficult time with the term "war". For it, and most of us, a "war" is one where people you know go to fight and some never come back except in a bag, where the news is full of battles and foreign adventures, where there are maps and pictures in the papers, where Bugs Bunny sells War Bonds. We have never been good at reconciling the "savage wars of peace" with what we think of as War with a capital "w".

    So for most Americans - even the ones that really do buy the formulation of a "war on terror" - I don't think that the notion that "we are at war" is a reality. Which, in a sense, is a GOOD thing. Nations and peoples do some pretty terrible and stupid things to themselves when they are "at war". Wars tend to empower the worst, stupidest, and most shortsighted elements in a society, and the sorts of expedients required of nations in wars - however essential those expedients may be to surviving and winning that war - are not really good for the nations or the people that take them.


  9. (con't from above)

    And this whole thread - about the female Ranger School grads - is a good indication of the fact that even the U.S. Army is not "at war". When TRADOC is "at war" - as it was in the Forties, early Fifties, and Sixties - it tends to get very focused on cranking out new meat for the meatgrinder. My old Reserve unit (104th Division (Training)) had that as its entire mission; the idea was that when the balloon went up in Korea, say, we'd mobilize to Ft. Lewis and reopen the old Vietnam-era Infantry OSUT, crank out 3-4 divisions worth of replacements and then ruck up and go to war with the last cycle through. There were something like 5-6 similar "training divisions" in the USAR with similar missions in various parts of the country.

    What I find very interesting is that in the past decade the USAR has drastically downsized or eliminated these units. The 104th is pretty much gone; its mission has been turned around to running ROTC summer camps. The 91st (which was the other West Coast training division) is doing something called "operational" training. The old 78th Division now is the mobilization evaluation outfit for USAR units called up for deployment...

    What that tells me is - as I keep saying on this thread - that the U.S. Army has abandoned the notion that there will EVER be a situation similar to WW2, Korea, or Vietnam where the TRADOC establishment will have to be ramped up to crank out masses of 11-series bodies...which, in turn, makes me think that the U.S. Army has moved fully over to thinking like the old British Army of 1890; that it is a largely constabulary and expeditionary organization that will never have to field a WW2-style mass Army again...

    Meaning, in turn, that the Army thinks that what the U.S. public thinks as "war" will never occur within the foreseeable future, and that what we have now - these low-level brushfire and colonial-type "wars" - are the new normal.

    Whether the public will ever "get" that - or whether the various organizations and factions that concentrate power in the United States WANT them to "get it" and will work actively to ensure they don't - remains to be seen...

  10. Chief,
    I disagree that getting shot at means that you are at war.
    If you use that formula then gang bangers would earn CIB's in LA.

  11. Chief,
    I disagree that getting shot at means that you are at war.
    If you use that formula then gang bangers would earn CIB's in LA.

  12. Given the quality of the opposition, Jim, I'd be OK with the notion the if you could get a CIB for "fighting" Saddam's army then the Eight-Trey Crips should get you at least a right-shoulder patch.

  13. And now poor jim's head explodes: