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Women warriors.

Three women just graduated from the Army's elite Ranger School. But will they be allowed to go on missions with their male classmates?

Last summer, 96 soldiers completed one of the most grueling training programs in the world: the U.S. Army's prestigious Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. During the 62-day program, they scaled cliffs in the middle of the night, crawled through muddy trenches covered with barbed wire, and marched for miles--all while carrying gear weighing up to 100 pounds.

Those who finish--only about 3 percent of active-duty Army soldiers-- can try out for the 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite combat unit that's sent on some of the military's most dangerous missions.

Women were allowed to attend the school for the first time this year, and in August First Lieutenant Shaye Haver and Captain Kristen Griest made history as its first female graduates. (A third woman, Major Lisa Jaster, finished the course in October.) But despite having met all the same requirements as their male classmates, they aren't allowed to compete for a spot in the regiment-- because they're women.

About 240,000 combat positions in the U.S. military--20 percent of military jobs overall--are currently off-limits to female soldiers, mainly in infantry, armor, and special forces units.

But that's about to change. Next month, the Pentagon is expected to open most--if not all--combat positions to women. The move comes nearly three years after the military's momentous decision to lift the 1994 ban on women in combat. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines had until this fall to recommend which jobs, if any, should remain closed to women. (Officials say only the Marines asked for exemptions.) U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is reviewing their recommendations and will make the final call.

"I do hope that with our performance in Ranger School, we've been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military," Griest recently told reporters. "That we can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men."

Women have served in the military since the nation's founding. They were nurses, spies, and cooks during the American Revolution (1775-83). In the Civil War (1861-65), some women disguised themselves as men to fight. During World War II (1939-45), hundreds of thousands of women took jobs as pilots, mechanics, and radio operators.

Tough Enough?

Today, more than 200,000 women serve in the U.S. armed forces. They make up nearly 15 percent of active-duty military personnel, working as medics, intelligence officers, military police, and in other non-combat roles.

Regardless of their job titles, women have often been involved in fighting, especially during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In those conflicts, traditional front lines didn't exist. Firefights could occur anywhere and at any time. As a result, female soldiers routinely dodged bullets, shot back during ambushes, and were threatened by roadside bombs--even though they weren't officially allowed in combat.

At least 161 women have been killed in action since 2001. And more than 1,000 have been wounded.

Supporters of opening all positions to women say the policy has prevented female soldiers from moving up in the ranks, since top military jobs often require combat experience.

Ray Mabus, head of the Navy and Marine Corps, insists that if women can meet the physical and mental requirements for a job, they should be allowed to apply. "Gender alone is not a justification for prohibiting a Marine from serving in a position for which she is qualified," he recently wrote in The Washington Post.

Proponents also point to countries like Canada, France, Germany, and Israel, where women have served in combat roles for years.

But many other people worry that allowing female soldiers to take part in the fighting will weaken our military. They say studies show that women aren't as naturally strong as men and are more prone to injuries.

"We need our combat units to be the most lethal fighting force our tax dollars can buy," says retired female Marine Jude Eden. "Adding women creates more danger for everyone and risks compromising missions."

Critics are also concerned that physical standards will be lowered to make it easier for women to compete with men--something military leaders insist won't happen. Even if some female soldiers are strong enough, opponents say women will disrupt unit cohesion and distract the men in their ranks.

Second Lieutenant Michael Janowski, Haver's training partner during Ranger School, disagrees. He says there's no question women are capable of serving in combat positions. In fact, he credits Haver with helping him graduate. During a particularly grueling training exercise, Haver volunteered to help Janowski carry his heavy gear up a rocky cliff.

"I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now if it wasn't for Shaye," he says. "I would trust her with my life."

Watch a video on women soldiers in Iraq at



NUMBER Of military women killed since 2001 in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; 1,016 have been wounded.

15% PERCENTAGE of active-duty military who are women.


NUMBER Of women enrolled in U.S. military academies.



Lexile level: 1160L

Women Warriors

Next month, the Pentagon is expected to open most combat positions in the U.S. military to women. Upfront looks at the history of women in the U.S. armed forces.

Additional Resources

Print or project:

* Article Quiz (also on p. 9 of this Teacher's Guide)

* How Women Served (also on p. 12 of this Teacher's Guide)

* Analyze the Photo (also on p. 14 of this Teacher's Guide)

Video: Female soldiers serving in the Iraq war

Analyze the Article

1 Read: Students should read the article, marking the text to note key ideas or questions.

2 Discuss: Ask students to answer the following critical-thinking questions, citing evidence from the text:

* Why do many people argue that not being able to serve in combat has hurt women's military careers?

(Most top military jobs require combat experience. Many people argue that keeping women out of combat roles has prevented them from rising in the ranks.)

* Explain how women were involved in fighting in places like Iraq and Afghanistan before the ban on women in combat was officially lifted. (Women were deployed to these places as medics and in other non-combat roles. However, because traditional front lines did not exist in these conflicts, fighting could break out anywhere. Women found themselves dodging bullets and firing back.)

* What are some of the main arguments posed by people against women in combat? How do proponents respond? (Opponents to women in combat argue that women are weaker than men, that physical standards will be lowered to allow women to compete, and that women will distract men. Proponents say that women have proved themselves and already serve in combat roles in other countries.)

3 Core Skill Practice

Print or project the activity How Women Served (on p. 12 of the Teacher's Guide). Have students complete the chronology of women in the military and answer the questions to analyze the events.

Extend & Assess

4 Writing Prompt

Why do you think the issue of putting women in combat sparks such intense debate?

5 Classroom Debate

Based on what you've read, do you think the U.S. military should open all combat positions to women? Why or why not?

6 Video

If you didn't share the video before reading, play it now. Discuss the challenges female soldiers faced in Iraq.


Women Warriors

Choose the best answer for each of the following questions.


1. First Lieutenant Shaye Haver and Captain Kristen Griest made news this year as the first women

a to serve in Marine combat positions.

b to earn spots in the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment.

c to graduate from the Army's Ranger School.

d to testify before U.S. government officials on the issue of women in combat.

2. Who will make the final decision on which combat jobs will be open to women, according to the article?

a the Secretary of Defense

b the President

c the U.S. Congress

d the heads of the individual branches of the armed forces

3. Which branch of the U.S. military is expected to seek to keep some jobs closed to women?

a the Army

b the Navy

c the Air Force

d the Marines

4. How did some women in the military get fighting experience during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

a Some got special exemptions to join infantry units.

b Hundreds of women disguised themselves as men.

c Many in noncombat positions had to defend themselves in firefights and ambushes.

d The women were serving in the elite Army Rangers unit.


5. The author's main purpose in the article is to

a argue that combat positions should be open to women.

b explore concerns that some people have about women serving in combat roles.

c report on the latest developments on women's role in the U.S. military and the history of that role.

d compare the role women play in the U.S. military with the role they play in other countries' armed forces.

6. The article notes that "opponents say women will disrupt unit cohesion and distract the men in their ranks." You can infer that cohesion means

a scheduling.

b equality.

c fitness.

d unity.

7. What does Second Lieutenant Michael Janowski mean when he says at the end of the article,

"I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now if it wasn't for Shaye"?

a Shaye saved his life in Afghanistan.

b Shaye helped him successfully get through his training.

c Shaye selected him for promotion to second lieutenant.

d none of the above

8. Janowski's tone in the quotation cited above can best be described as

a complimentary.

b apologetic.

c surprised.

d concerned.

IN-DEPTH QUESTIONS Please use the other side of this paper for your responses.

9. Based on evidence in the text, how would you describe Ranger training? What qualities do you think soldiers need to complete the course?

10. Should combat experience be required for top military posts? Why or why not?


1. [c] to graduate from the Army's Ranger School.

2. [a] the Secretary of Defense

3. [d] the Marines

4. [c] Many in noncombat positions had to defend themselves in firefights and ambushes.

5. [c] report on the latest developments on women's role in the U.S. military and the history of that role.

6. [d] unity.

7. [b] Shaye helped him successfully get through his training.

8. [a] complimentary.


How Women Served

Use information in the article "Women Warriors" to complete the following chronology of important events in the history of women in the U.S. military. Then answer the questions that follow.

SYNTHESIZE: Looking at the chronology, do you see instances in which one event may have caused or significantly shaped a later event? Explain. What events do you think might be added to this chronology in the decade to come?


Analyze the Photo

(This photo is on p. 6 of the magazine.)

1. What details do you notice in this photo of Ranger School graduate Kristen Griest (center, standing) and her classmates?

2. Can you conclude anything about Griest's readiness to be a Ranger, based on the photo?

3. What questions, if any, does the photo raise for you about women in combat?


Does this photo affect your views on whether all military positions should be open to women? Explain.
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Title Annotation:NATIONAL
Author:Zissou, Rebecca
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Dec 14, 2015
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