Fort Benning

Army responds to congressman's request for Ranger School records

By CHUCK WILLIAMS

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com

rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com

The Army’s secretary has responded to an Oklahoma congressman’s request for Ranger School records of the first female graduates by pointing out that the women did better than some of their male counterparts in parts of the course.

Republican Rep. Steve Russell, a retired infantry battalion commander who is Ranger qualified, has been seeking the Army records since September. Russell’s request to Secretary John McHugh came in the wake of Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver becoming the first women to graduate from the Army’s most difficult combat leadership school on Aug. 21. A third woman, Maj. Lisa Jaster, graduated last month.

Among the documents Russell 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 Army’s leadership at Fort Benning where the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade is based has maintained since before April 19, when 19 women started the course, that the female soldiers were held to the same difficult standards that the men were. They have insisted there was no change of standards for the first class to include women.

McHugh, in his letter dated Oct. 20 and released earlier this week by Russell’s office, declined to provide much of what Russell requested, saying those records are not retained after graduation. What the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade does keep is a “green card” on each of its more than 77,000 graduates dating back to 1951.

“This would be similar to the way a university maintains a transcript for a student or graduate, but does not retain every test or paper that a student completes within a course,” McHugh wrote.

In an earlier letter to McHugh, the congressman questioned why some of the documents had been destroyed, which he was told in a September meeting with Maj. Gen. Laura Richardson and Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning.

“The Army takes exception to your characterization of this standard operating procedure as demonstrating a ‘lack of care’ or the implication that this practice is somehow nefarious in deed or motive,” McHugh wrote.

The Army did not provide the congressman with the “green cards” for the female graduates.

“The Army cannot provide the ‘green cards’ for these Rangers outside of a formal request from an appropriate oversight committee,” McHugh wrote, citing privacy concerns.

Russell is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, but has been seeking the information independently of that committee.

In an interview with newsOk.com two weeks ago, Russell explained why he was seeking the records.

“… If you have whistleblowers that come to you begging to look into a matter and as you’ve looked into it, you realize there is probably something to it, based on the evidence we’ve seen so far, you have a moral obligation to investigate it,” he said. “It wouldn’t matter if it were the Ranger topic or new equipment fielding or maintenance or whatever. We have some serious allegations that have been made that would be serious under any topic.”

Russell’s office has not identified the source of the complaints.

“And people say, ‘What have you got? Why aren’t you coming out with this?’ Because we have people that are terrified that they will lose their careers and we have to protect them,” the congressman said.

The information the Army did provide Russell included peer scores — a system where fellow students grade each other — for Griest and Haver. One of the women had a peer average of 83 out of 100, and the other had an average of 77. The secretary’s letter does not identify which of the women soldiers had which grade. There was no peer information provided on Jaster’s peer grades.

By comparison, the distinguished honor graduate in the August class had a peer average of 90. The enlisted honor graduate in the same class had a peer average of 83, according to the information McHugh supplied the congressman.

The letter points out that each of the women recycled phases of the course, which is not uncommon. Only about 30 percent of the men who have attempted the 62-day course go straight through. Haver and Griest were in the course for more than 120 days. It took Jaster 180 days to complete the training.

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