On Friday, two women for the first time ever were awarded the coveted Ranger Tab for completing the U.S. Army's premier leadership school.
I applaud Capt. Kristen Griest's and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver's willingness to even begin this journey and for showing their fellow soldiers they could hold their own in what has historically been a male-only leadership course.
Reflecting on my own experiences graduating from Ranger School in August 2001, I can say the school lives up to its reputation as a demanding test of one's intestinal fortitude. Let's just say the thought of quitting entered my mind on a regular basis.
However, you quickly learn that misery loves company and that your fellow Ranger School peers are struggling right along with you. You learn that accomplishing the mission is the most important task and that you cannot fulfill that duty alone.
You must depend on the soldiers beside you as you conduct small-unit tactics, enduring weeks of sleep deprivation and starvation (I lost more than 20 pounds over the course of several months).
As with every shattered glass ceiling, the skeptics will try to diminish this achievement by insinuating that these women were given some type of preferential treatment or that their paths to earning the Ranger Tab were somehow eased with lower standards.
However, the facts do not support either of these claims.
First, of the 19 women who started the course in April, only two finished, leaving a success rate of less than 10 percent. This is far below the male success rate of less than 50 percent.
Furthermore, we also know that the first two female soldiers to graduate completed the required tasks to the same standard as their male peers to include the five-mile run, obstacles courses, ruck marches and passing grades on their patrols during each phase.
From experience, I can tell you the cadre that operate the Army Ranger School are professionals. They understand that lowering the standards to allow more soldiers to pass would achieve nothing and would — justifiably — invite further scrutiny from their military peers and the wider Ranger community.
For those who caution against using the military as a social experiment, I suggest a reflection upon history.
As an institution, the military has a track record of successfully breaking down social barriers long before broader society.
Of course, the purpose of the military will always be to fight and win our nation's wars — nothing that happens at Ranger School should change that. However, what last week's achievement does suggest is that some women have what it takes to be at the tip of the spear of the greatest army on Earth.
These women proved they had what it took to drive on to the Ranger objective and be successful. They have undoubtedly earned my respect. "Rangers lead the way!"