1st. Lt. Alessandra Kirby, of the Utah National Guard, negotiates the Darby Obstacle Course at Fort Benning during the Ranger Assessment.

Credit: Flickr.com/ U.S. Army

Rangers Are Doing It For Themselves

October 14, 2015

On Monday, the Army announced that Lisa Jaster, 37, has become the third woman to ever complete the Ranger School course. Jaster joins Capt. Kristen Griest, 26, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, 25, a few of the 19 women who attempted the course in April, when the Army opened it up to women for the first time.

This announcement comes in the midst of deliberations, as military leaders decide whether women should be allowed to integrate into combat roles in the future.  In January, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opened all jobs to women, giving the military a deadline of this fall to make their recommendations.

Congressman Seth Moulton, who has served four tours of duty in Iraq, joined Jim and Margery on Boston Public Radio this past week to discuss the possibility of women in combat zones.

“I think we need to see the facts. This is a decision that affects our national security and affects the lives of young Americans who are on our front lines,” Moulton said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to make sure that making this change improves the combat effectiveness of our frontline troops—that’s what it really comes down to. I can tell you, I’m frustrated by the secretary of the Navy, who right now is preventing this study from being released, so we haven’t been able to see the facts.”

Juliette Kayyem, national security expert, founder of Kayyem Solutions, former candidate for governor, and the host of the Security Mom podcast, joined Jim and Margery on BPR to offer another perspective.

“I like Seth Moulton a lot, but sometimes the facts are in your face,” Kayyem said. “One of the reasons why the military did open up combat roles for women was that they recognized that women were more than supporting our military efforts, they actually were integral to figuring out information, especially in cultures where women do not speak to men, particularly men in uniform.”

Military officials assessing women’s abilities are considering a number of factors, including physical ability. According to Kayyem, the ability to carry a pack and complete the challenges has little to do with sex or gender, and more to do with opportunity. “At some stage, you have to provide the opportunities so that women train for the test because they know that they can be considered for combat roles,” Kayyem said. “If you have a default rule, ‘no combat for women,’ that sets up a line of training, education, and physical assessments that women are never going to challenge themselves to take and to move forward on, knowing that there’s a barrier.”

Ultimately, Kayyem argues that there’s no way to know until the option is created.  “You can’t guarantee perfect success on day one, but if you take the long view: three women in one year have passed the army ranger school,” Kayyem said. “Fifty years from now, what will the military look like? Will we be looking back at 2015 saying, ‘weren’t they cute, debating this’—I think we will.”

Juliette Kayyem is a national security expert, founder of Kayyem Solutions, a former candidate for governor, and the host of the Security Mom podcast. To hear more, click on the audio link above. 

WGBH News is supported by:
Back to top