GOP congressman wants Army to prove first female Ranger School grads "deserved to pass"

Rep. Steve Russell questions whether standards were lowered for historic first female grads of Army Rangers School

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published September 23, 2015 3:03PM (EDT)

A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Army Ranger School graduates as Rangers. A graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger Course is merely qualified for the 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite special operations unit.

An Oklahoma Republican has asked the Pentagon to hand over dozens of documents related to the performance of two women who made history by recently become the first female graduates of the rigorous and elite Army Ranger School, citing his suspicion that the women "got special treatment and played by different rules."

Capt. Kristen Griest, 26, a military police platoon leader, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, 25, an Apache attack helicopter pilot, successfully completed the grueling 62-day school last month to become became the first female graduates of the U.S. Army Rangers Course.

Earlier this month, Rep. Steve Russell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, sent a letter to the Pentagon's top Army leader, John McHugh, asking for documents on the two graduates to prove they rightfully deserved to graduate.

The letter, sent to McHugh on September 15, gave the outgoing Army Secretary until September 25 to produce documents outlining the female soldiers' test scores, peer evaluations, injuries, pre-training and more, People magazine reported.

Russell, a Ranger graduate himself, claimed he opened the investigation into the female graduates because "sources at Fort Benning are coming forward to say the Army lied about women in Ranger School, that the women got special treatment and played by different rules."

Russell, who has longstanding ties to Fort Benning having served as chief of tactics at the U.S. Army Infantry School there, was reportedly informed by current Ranger instructors who said they were told to keep silent that the women carried less weight than the men and did not take their turn carrying heavy weaponry, according to a Capitol Hill source People spoke with.

The freshman congressman has demanded the Army turn over the phase evaluation reports, patrol grade sheets, spot reports, and sick call reports, all "with Ranger Instructors' comments for each and every phase to include every recycled phase and class" for Haver, Griest and third woman who is said to be in the final phase of the Ranger course.

"Our office recently received information from some people with the Ranger School who alleged they were not held to the same standards," Daniel Susskind, Russell's communications director, said late Tuesday. "We asked for the records to make sure that all of the people who passed the course deserved to pass it."

But the letter to McHugh specifically asks for information on "the female graduates and those female candidates that entered Ranger School May 1."

During a press conference last month, one of Haver's fellow Ranger School graduates, 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski, admitted to his initial skepticism about a female Ranger:

I went to school with Shaye and I knew she was a physical stud, but I was skeptical of whether or not I could handle it. I was fortunate enough — this was my third time in ranger school, I'd been dropped twice before. I was skeptical if they could handle it physically.

Now, we got to mountains, and there was one night we were doing a long walk. I was at 320 gunners and I had a lot of weight on me and I was struggling. I stopped and I asked halfway point, hey, can anyone help take some of this weight.

I got a lot of deer in the headlights look, a lot of people were like, I can't take anymore weight. Shaye was the only one to volunteer to take that weight. She took the weight off of me and carried it the last half of me, literally saved me. I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now if it weren't for Shaye. So, from that point, no more skepticism. I knew she was going to make it right through.

Russell led an infantry battalion in combat in Iraq before joining Congress in 2014 and wrote to the Pentagon that "in order to ensure that the Army retains its ability to defend the nation, we must ensure that our readiness is not sacrificed."

The Army has announced that it would officially open up its Ranger School to all qualified candidates.

(H/T: The Hill)

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Army Army Rangers Gop Gop "woman Problem" Rep. Steve Russell