The U.S. Army’s elite Ranger School has been in the news lately because of its first ever female graduates, but another story emerging is just how brutal the training program can be.
Ranger School is what stands between soldiers, both enlisted and officer, and membership in one of the country’s most elite military units. The failure rate for Ranger School is high, for both men and women, and first-hand accounts from graduates give some idea why.
The Washington Post reports that the most recent Ranger School session, which included female Rangers 1st Lt. Shaye Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest, put the trainees through a number of tests outside what they might have expected to face.
Second Lt. Michael V. Janowski found himself under scrutiny for being assigned as Haver’s “Ranger buddy,” the name given to partners randomly assigned on the first day of Ranger School. For Janowski, having a female buddy was the least of his concerns, however. The young officer was on his third try at Ranger School, having twice been held back to fight cancer.
Janowski’s brother, Chris, shared an account of his struggles with the disease that was keeping him out of Ranger School.
“I can’t say I’ve ever seen my brother as broken as he was when he was sick, but he did an incredible job hiding how terrible he truly felt,” Chris Janowski wrote. “I was constantly looking at him, trying to seek out how he was truly feeling, but no matter what he tried his best to hide how hard he was hurting. By week three, he was losing his hair, it was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen, seeing hair fall out like that, without any resistance.”
Back for a third try at Ranger School, Janowski admitted that he struggled to carry all of the ammunition that was assigned to him. When none of the male soldiers helped, it was his Ranger buddy Haver who stepped up.
“I probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now if it wasn’t for Shaye,” Janowski said in an interview following the completion of Ranger School.
Others needed the help of medical personnel to make it through Ranger School. The Washington Post notes that 40 students and four Ranger instructors were injured by a lightning strike near the end of the Ranger School session. Seventeen of the students and three of the instructors required overnight medical care in a hospital setting, with others receiving treatment from their fellow Ranger School students.
One student, 2nd Lt. Anthony Rombold, had his heart flatline and he credits fellow students 2nd Lt. Erickson Krough and Spec. Christopher J. Carvalho with saving his life. Krough joked that the bizarre experience was “shocking.”
“It was a typical Ranger class until we got struck by lightning — and then it got a little weird,” Krough said.
Carvalho, an Army medic, said his take-away from the experience is that everyone who makes it through Ranger School, man or woman, shares a common trait.
“I feel like every one of the 96 Rangers who are graduating tomorrow said in their mind … ‘Quitting is not an option. We’re going to stick this out, and we’re going to do what needs to be done to get our Ranger tab,'” he said.
Now that Ranger School has come to a close, Fox News notes that the Army isn’t entirely sure what to do with the new female Rangers.
“Truly, it’s a huge credit for anyone, man or woman, to endure the intense training and curriculum at Ranger school, and to prevail and graduate,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at a press conference Thursday. “Clearly, these two soldiers are trail blazers. And after all, that’s what it means to be a Ranger. Rangers lead the way.”
The Pentagon is currently weighing its options and plans to make a full recommendation for new policies concerning whether or not to allow women to serve in infantry, armor, and special forces units sometime next year. Griest said Friday that she hopes the accomplishments she and Haver made at Ranger School will be a factor in the decision.
“I do hope that, with our performance in Ranger School, we’ve been able to inform those making decisions that we can handle things mentally and physically on the same level as men,” she said. “I’m definitely interested to see what new doors do open up for women.”
[Image from U.S. Army via Getty Images]