Sources: Generals Decided Long Before Ranger School That ‘A Woman Will Graduate’

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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A general reportedly told a stunned audience of military officials back in January that “a woman will graduate Ranger School,” before the school even convened, meaning that Army leadership were dead set on moving at least one female through the course.

“At least one will get through,” the general added at a meeting of subordinates preparing for the start of Ranger School, which began on April 20.

That preordained mandate apparently had a ripple effect throughout Fort Benning, Susan Katz Keating at PEOPLE reports.

“Even though this was supposed to be just an assessment, everyone knew. The results were planned in advance,” sources told PEOPLE.

This is precisely what Rep. Steve Russell, himself a Ranger graduate, suspected. Earlier this month, Russell sent in a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh, asking the service head to pass along documents of female performance at Ranger School. Russell wants test scores, evaluations and injury records. (RELATED: Congressman: Did Women Get Special Treatment At Ranger School?)

A female West Point graduate and Obama appointee filed a FOIA request on Russell’s records in response. (RELATED: Obama Official Tries To Intimidate Lawmaker Seeking Female Ranger Records)

Sources listed a variety of exceptions women received, despite men still being held to the rigorous standards outlined in the Standing Operating Procedures handbook for Ranger School.

First, female candidates received two weeks training from the National Guard’s Ranger Training and Assessment Course (RTAC) in January in preparation for the course, which started April 20. Males weren’t allowed to repeat RTAC, but women were — again and again.

Following the pre-training, females were assigned to a platoon at Fort Benning for months to receive full-time training with a Ranger, Sergeant First Class Robert Hoffnagle. They were even taken out to the field regularly to see the land navigation course. This is a difficult segment which is timed. When male candidates in Ranger School came across the land navigation segment, it was the first time they had ever seen it.

“He taught [them] everything, including how to do patrols,” a source told PEOPLE. While the Army denied that women were even part of the special platoon, a woman who belonged to the platoon confirmed with PEOPLE that “Hoffnagle got us ready for Ranger School.”

And finally, a two-star general showed up to cheer the women on throughout the most difficult parts of the course.

Even Capt. Kristen Griest, one of the two females who graduated the course, was surprised she made it through successfully.

“I thought we were going to be dropped after we failed Darby [part of Benning] the second time,” Griest said at a press conference before graduation. “We were offered a Day One Recycle.”

The remaining women were called in May 7 to see a general. At that point, an Army source told Keating, no women were left in the course. The general “told them they could not quit – too much time and money had been devoted to bringing them here.” The day after, May 8, eight women were permitted to restart the first phase. These women failed the first phase again and were given an offer to begin the entire course from the start.

Miller, the general who met with the women and oversees Ranger School, arrived on the scene. Once he arrived, the women passed the first phase.

“No matter what the general intended to convey, the instructors had no choice but to take this to mean, ‘Play along,'” a source told PEOPLE.

The women stumbled and struggled repeatedly. Miller returned to the course, and two women ended up graduating.

Recycling has been another complaint by observers carefully watching the moves of Army officials. Officials have admitted that the number of recycles afforded to women is rare, but not unprecedented. Throughout the entire process, Army leadership has strenuously denied that any standards were modified, or that there was any pressure to do so.

Ranger instructors, however, tell a different story.

“We were under huge pressure to comply,” one Ranger instructor told PEOPLE. “It was very much politicized.”

As a result of the one-time gender-integrated assessment, the Army opened up Ranger School to women on Sept. 2. (RELATED: Ranger School Is Opening Its Doors To All Female Soldiers)

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