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.