Right now, two women are enduring the last week of the United States Army Ranger School in the daunting Florida “jungle” phase, as part of a pilot program to help the Pentagon decide how they might open combat specialty positions to women in the future. Throughout their attendance at the course, these two Army officers have impressed their Ranger Instructors and inspired women throughout the ranks of the entire Army.
A similar experiment has been conducted by the United States Marine Corps over the last several years, admitting women to attend the USMC Infantry Officer’s Course, or IOC. One of these women, First Lieutenant Sage Santangelo attempted to pass the course and failed. She wrote an op-ed following her attempt and attributed her lack of success to a double-standard in training requirements between males and females. She simply did not feel that she had been well prepared for success by adhering to lower training standards in the years preceding her attendance at IOC, where she was held to the same standards as the men.
Taking Lt. Santangelo’s premise that she wasn’t successful because of lower expectations for women, I began to think about how fathers raise their own daughters, and more personally, how I am raising my own daughter. What I never wish to happen is for my daughter to miss out on a personal dream because I held her back from being prepared to tackle the world. So if her dream is to one day become a United States Army Ranger, I had better spend my time getting her ready. While not a graduate of Ranger School myself, I have enjoyed great success as an Army officer and have mentored and trained many for military success. So here is my best advice for fathers who want to show their daughters a world where the ceilings are made of glass…and then show them how fast they can shatter them.
Checkpoint 1: Stop raising a little girl, and start raising a Ranger
The first step in raising a Ranger (no need to say “little girl” anymore, and you’ll soon see why) is to eliminate social biases that define or constrain gender roles. Is it surprising to anyone at all that there are no women Rangers in the Army when we’ve been telling young girls and women that they will never be allowed to be Rangers? At preschool age, children are already developing social biases about their gender and the “other” gender as well. It is an uphill fight trying to mitigate the social structure that defines male and female roles, but it is worth the effort seeing how our future daughters will be liberated from being handicapped with false constraints.
Today’s Rangers already know this point. I’m not just talking about today’s Rangers who have worked with women embedded in their units and already know their mettle. In the traditional “Ranger Creed” the word “man” or “men” never appears once. Only the words “I”, “Ranger”, “Soldier”, “Officer”, and “comrade”. Ranger identities are professional, and do not suffer the encumbrance of gender identity. The first stanza of the Ranger Creed illuminates this point well, as it asserts the Ranger identity as a member of a group that is set apart.
Recognizing that I volunteered as a ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of my ranger regiment.
Realize that by defining your ranger as just a little girl can be inhibiting for their success in a variety of careers and future goals. Placing restrictions on children early on sets the baseline for their entire future behavior. Our rangers deserve a future of unlimited potential, not a world where their place in life and future success is determined by chromosome configuration. But most of you dads understand this, so lets move on…
Checkpoint 2: Teach your daughter to run #LikeA
Rangers are tough, and Rangers take unimaginable risks in their line of work. They jump out of airplanes, climb cliffs and mountains, swim through swamps, detonate explosives, and clobber some of the most dangerous bad guys this planet has ever produced. Returning to the Ranger Creed, the second stanza outlines the physical expectations of a Ranger.
Acknowledging the fact that a ranger is a more elite soldier, who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a ranger, my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier.
When my first child (a boy) first started playing on neighborhood playground equipment, I followed him everywhere. He was clumsy, didn’t pay attention, and took risks I didn’t like. I nervously followed him around playgrounds until he was nearly four years old. When my second child (a boy) began playing on playgrounds, I did the same thing, but only until he was a little over two. I had become much more comfortable with my boys’ ability to navigate the playground without getting hurt. My third child (a ranger) loves to play on the playground, but one day I caught myself following behind her the same way I followed my first – much past the age where I stopped following my second. I forced myself to stop. I wanted her to take risks and play just as hard as her brothers. I realized that the only reason I could be following her was my own discomfort, and not her lack of ability.
Rangers need to play just as hard as the boys. They need to take risks just as often as the boys. They need to get hurt just as often as the boys. There are so many things that hold young rangers back. Consider the toys your daughter plays with or the clothes that they wear. Boys on the playground are probably hitting each other with foam swords, or burying plastic heroes in sand with their swords and buckets. They are probably running around in pants and sneakers. As for the rangers, they often only have the option of pushing their stroller on the sidewalk or letting their dolly lead them down the slide. How can they run around the park and keep up with the boys wearing their skirts and slipper style shoes?
I think that the physicality of our daughters is unnecessarily restricted at an early age. This is probably due to the physical impact of things like toys and footwear, but is socially adapted as well. Many have probably seen the “Run like a Girl” video that made the rounds on social media inspiring the #LikeAGirl hash tag. If you missed it, give it a watch. It will definitely lend some perspective.
Take a big breath of resolve, and click to the next page for more…