A member of Joint Task Force Domestic Support-Counterdrug, receives his Ranger tab after completing Ranger School in 2010.

A member of Joint Task Force Domestic Support-Counterdrug, receives his Ranger tab after completing Ranger School in 2010. Capt. Kara Siepmann/Army file photo

Army Opens Ranger Course to Women

The test is over: future classes of the elite Ranger School will be open to all candidates.

One of the military’s most grueling leadership and special forces courses is now officially open to both genders, the Army announced Wednesday.

Just weeks after the first two women graduated from the Army’s Ranger school as part of a pilot program to study the remaining barriers to full gender integration in the military, the Army opened the course to all personnel who qualify.

“The Army’s number one priority is combat readiness and leader development is a function of combat readiness,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said in a statement. “Giving every qualified soldier the opportunity to attend the Ranger Course, the Army’s premier small unit leadership school, ensures we are maintaining our combat readiness.”

But a gender gap remains. All women who complete the course will earn the coveted Ranger tab, but — unlike their male counterparts — are not yet allowed to vie for the 75th Ranger Regiment, the unit sent on the most sensitive missions.

That could end as soon as Jan. 1. The services are expected to complete their integration review and report back to Defense Secretary Ash Carter by Oct. 1. If they do not seek, or are not granted, an exemption, the military will open to women all 200,000 positions that remain closed to them on or before the first of the year, including front-line combat and special operations jobs such as the Ranger squad. The Defense Department has opened 111,000 jobs to women since beginning their review in January.

Most of the branches have indicated they will not ask for an out, with the possible exception of the Marine Corps. But on Tuesday, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus made clear the Marine Corps would have to get that ask past his desk — and he’s not inclined to sign off.

“That’s still my call, and I’ve been very public,” Mabus told the Marine Corps Times. “I do not see a reason for an exemption.”

In late August, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said the service will soon open its elite training school for SEALs to women.

The Army’s Wednesday announcement reiterated that standards will not be lowered to accommodate women — “All prerequisites for students attending the Ranger Course remain in effect” — an effort to assuage those who still do not believe it.