On Monday, the first-ever Army Ranger School to accept female students opened, with 16 out of 19 female soldiers passing their initial physical test. The class includes 380 men and 19 women — 20 women had qualified to attend by completing a 17-day preparatory course at Fort Benning, but one of them withdrew. The Army decided to open the school to women on a one-time basis, in order to research how to integrate women into combat units. When the women graduate later this spring, they will receive a prestigious Ranger tab on their uniform, but will not be assigned to the Ranger Regiment, the elite force carrying out special operations, as that unit remains closed to women. Combat roles for women in the military have long been the subject of debate, even since Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rescinded the ban in 2013. Since then, combat schools have opened up to women on a trial basis. Last week, the Marine Corps announced the end of an 18-month experiment to vet females through its Infantry Officer Course, with disappointing results: None of the 29 women made it through the three-month course.
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