U.S. Army Soldiers use teamwork to scale an obstacle during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., April 21, 2015.

U.S. Army Soldiers use teamwork to scale an obstacle during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., April 21, 2015. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Antonio Lewis

3 Women Get Another Try At Ranger School — But More Could Soon Follow

The other five women who remained were dropped entirely, while 195 more soldiers — all men — moved on to the mountain phase. But the Army chief says future Ranger classes are likely to include women.

And then there were three.

Of the 19 women who began the first gender-integrated Ranger course on April 20 along with 381 men, eight did well enough in the first, or Darby, phase not to pass but to try it again. Now, after their second time through, five have been sent packing. Army officials said the remaining three excelled at enough aspects to earn a grim reward: the chance to start one of the military’s toughest special operations training courses all over again.

Meanwhile, 195 soldiers, all men, moved on to the next phase. The Army dropped 29 soldiers from the course, including the other five women.

The mixed-gender course was intended as a one-time test case as part of a military-wide assessment of the barriers that remain to full gender-integration across the branches, but on Thursday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said there may be more. Even though no women have yet to advance past the first phase, military officials said the pilot has proven women can meet the same standards as men. All military occupations will be opened to women by next January unless a service requests and is granted an exemption for a particular set of jobs.

"We'll probably run a couple more pilots," Odierno told reporters. "It's been a real success for us, and we'll see how it goes from there."

The three women remaining, as well as two male soldiers, now have the option of starting the whole course over in a “Day One Recycle.” That would mean going through the first few days of Ranger school, a grueling event that winnows many from the class, and then proceeding to the Darby phase again.

Army officials described this as a “normal course procedure” used when students struggle with one particular element but excel at the rest. The next Ranger School class begins June 21.

The Army reported that the “vast majority” of those dropped from the course altogether for not meeting the standards were unable to successfully lead a patrol.