A group of West Point women graduates have fired back at an Oklahoma congressman and retired Army officer who has questioned whether or not the two women who recently graduated Ranger School were held to the same standards as the men.
The women West Point graduates, led by 1980 graduate Sue Fulton, have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of the Army for the Ranger School file for Rep, Steve Russell, R-Okla. Russell earned the Ranger tab in November 1987 and served 21 years in the Army before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2006.
“If Congressman Russell claims that Rangers lie, and can be influenced to ignore standards, perhaps he experienced that when he went through Ranger School,” Fulton said. “We would like to see definitive proof that he is entitled to his tab.”
Russell sent a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh on Sept. 15, and the Ledger-Enquirer obtained it this week from Russell’s office.
Among the documents he requested were patrol grade sheets, spot reports, phase evaluation reports and sick call reports, all “with Ranger Instructors’ comments for each and every phase to include every recycled phase and class.”
Russell also requested peer evaluations and “a complete breakdown of each female candidate’s recycle history and dates for each phase.”
The request from Russell comes nearly four weeks after Capt. Kristen Griest, a military police officer, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, an attack helicopter pilot, became the first women to graduate from the Army’s most demanding combat training school, which was established in 1951. Both women are West Point graduates.
A third female soldier, who the Army has not named but is also a West Point graduate, is currently in the final phase in Florida and could graduate next month.
A spokesman in Russell’s Washington, D.C. office declined to comment on the request for his Ranger School files.
Fulton was in the first West Point class to include women. She said about a dozen West Point women graduates have joined her in the call for Russell’s records. A large group of West Point women attended the Ranger School graduation on Aug. 21 when Griest and Haver were awarded their tabs in a historic first.
She compared what is happening now with the questioning of the women who have attended and completed Ranger School with what she and her West Point classmates endured.
“It is the same stuff we heard in the early years at West Point,” Fulton said. “That is why you are seeing these women say enough is enough. They are getting in the way of making the Army stronger. We made the Army stronger. These women will make the Army stronger.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Smith, who was with the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning when he retired in 2012, is concerned about Russell’s request for another reason.
“By asking for those records, he has questioned the integrity of the Ranger instructors who have been selected and trained on their ability to grade leadership,” Smith said.
Throughout the entire process, Army officials — including Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning; Col. David G. Fivecoat, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade; and Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Arnold of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade — have maintained the standards were not lowered.
Fort Benning officials are referring all media requests for information on the congressman’s letter to the Pentagon.