FORT BENNING, Ga., Nov. 23 (UPI) -- After putting them through a Ranger-based training exercise, the U.S. Army selected 31 female soldiers to act as advisers and observers for a possible assessment of Ranger School next year that would include men and women students, the Army says.
Of 46 volunteers, the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade chose 11 female officers and 20 female non-commissioned officers based on their performance in a week-long exercise that featured obstacles faced by actual students in Ranger School.
Considered some of the toughest training in the U.S. military, U.S. Army Ranger School takes soldiers through a series of physical and mental challenges, with training locations in the swamps of Florida and mountainous countryside in Georgia.
Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, said he was pleased with the quality of the volunteers received, praising their performance in the course as "extraordinary."
"This group did very well for what was a very physically challenging week for any soldier," he said.
The Army will decide whether to conduct a mixed-gender assessment of Ranger School in Jan. 2015. The 31 female soldiers will act as observers and advisers if the assessment is approved.
In early 2013, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed restrictions banning women from direct ground combat, opening up over 70,000 military jobs previously restricted to females, including artillery, tanks and infantry.
The Pentagon ordered all military occupational specialties open to women by Jan. 2016, when more than 300,000 positions will become available to female soldiers. The military has until Sept. 2015 to conduct assessments to determine which roles justify a male-only force.