DAHLONEGA, Ga, -- U.S. Army Ranger School is a numbers game -- and right now the number many people are focused on is three.
Three women, all of them West Point graduates, on Sunday started the mountain phase of the most mentally and physically challenging training offered by the Army. In the 60-plus years of the Rangers, "whose primary mission is to close with and destroy the enemy in direct fire battle," a woman has never earned the coveted Ranger tab.
The women passed the first of three patrol phases at Camp Darby on Fort Benning last week. It took each of them three attempts to successfully get through patrols at Darby. After failing the second attempt on May 29, all three women accepted an offer from the Ranger School's command staff to start the program over from the beginning, which they did on June 21.
There are 200 soldiers, including the three women, at Camp Merrill in the Chattahoochee National Forest this week participating in the 20-day mountain phase that will last until the end of the month. The training shifts to Camp Rudder near Destin, Fla., on Aug. 1. The graduation for this class is Aug. 21 at Fort Benning.
As it has done throughout the first Ranger School class to include women in what the Army has termed an assessment phase, the training has been open for members of the media to watch. Monday, five members of the media witnessed the soldiers training for the mountaineering that will come in the next couple of weeks. Unlike back in April when there were eight women in one session that was observed by the media and eight in another, it was difficult to identify the female soldiers
in Monday's mountain training.
The training moved Tuesday to Mount Yonah, about 45 minutes from Camp Merrill.
The soldiers did more than a two-mile foot march up the mountain and spent the day and better part of the night rappelling, climbing and doing individually training on the mountain's hard rock face.
Night vision goggles were used for the nighttime exercises.
The training will continue today as the Ranger students prepare to resume small-unit patrols in the mountains.
Col. David G. Fivecoat, the commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade based at Fort Benning, said it is business as usual during training. But the women are no longer standing out.
"I think the newness has worn off," Fivecoat said. "These Ranger instructors are running this like any of the other 11 classes."
The Army has not identified the three female soldiers remaining from the 19 who started the training on April 19.
Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Arnold said the women who continue to march through this training that deprives soldiers of sleep and food while sending them out on demanding patrol missions have earned their spots in this school.
"By accepting the Day 1 recycle and starting this course over, they have absolutely validated their place here," Arnold said Monday. " They are now fully integrated into this training. And the Rangers respect the heck out of that."
The numbers indicate when a soldier makes it to the mountains and through that phase of training, the likelihood of earning the Ranger tab increases.
The success rate for fiscal year 2014, which went from October 2013 to October 2014, class was:
Average size of class to start the school: 369 of which 44 percent failed the Ranger Assessment Phase.
Average Camp Darby class size: 207 of which 57 percent moved forward, 27 people recycled to take the phase again and 16 percent failed.
Average Camp Merrill class size: 219 of which 70 percent moved forward, 24 percent recycled and 6 percent failed.
Average Camp Rudder class size: 190 of which 77 percent moved forward to graduation, 19 percent recycled and 4 percent failed.