The military may be “shredding” documents that could indicate whether or not women received special treatment while attempting to become the first female Army Rangers, a letter from an investigating Congressman suggests.
Rep. Steve Russell of Oklahoma, himself a veteran and Ranger School graduate, has been investigating claims that Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver, the first ever female graduates of Ranger School, received special treatment. In September, he sent a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh requesting Army records relating to the women’s test scores, medical history, evaluations, and other background details that may help indicate whether they benefited from a lower standard.
But new documents, first written about by Susan Keating of PEOPLE and now obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation, suggest the Pentagon may be playing a cat-and-mouse game with Russell, first stalling for time and then later telling Russell that the information he requested had been destroyed.
Russell’s request to McHugh was delivered to McHugh Sept. 15, PEOPLE reports, and gave McHugh a ten-day deadline to produce the records. On the 24th, McHugh replied with a request for more time to compile and review the records, citing a concern for Griest and Haver’s privacy. Later, Army officials met with Russell in person to discuss his concerns.
After several more weeks passed, Russell sent a follow-up letter, where he indicated that Army officials told him records of the female Rangers may have been destroyed.
“I was somewhat puzzled by the Army officials informing me that many of the documents I am requesting might not be delivered as they may have been shredded,” Russell wrote. “If this is the case, then it would certainly complicate the ability to ascertain the information necessary to determine whether the military members’ allegation were substantiated, or if we can lay this to rest.”
Russell went on to suggest that the Army was showing a “lack of due care” by possibly destroyed historically relevant records just a month after the first women finished Ranger school.
The Army disputed the notion that it had “shredded” relevant documents when contacted by People, with an official claiming “Those documents were never meant to be maintained over a long period of time.”
Last August, Griest and Haver became the first two women to complete the Army’s Ranger School, a development that may lead to ground combat jobs opening up to women. Major Lisa Jaster, at 37-years-old, became the third Oct. 9.
While the graduations have been heralded as a major step towards gender equality in the military, critics have accused the Obama administration of playing politics, pressuring the armed forces to lower standards in order to ensure women completed the course. Last month, People published allegations that the Army allowed female Ranger candidates to repeatedly retake tests when men were not allowed to do so and gave them special early access to a difficult night navigation course. One Ranger instructor explicitly described the atmosphere as “politicized.” (RELATED: Generals Decided Long Before Ranger School That ‘A Woman Will Graduate’)
The military has persistently denied lowering standards for women, but that has failed to silence the rumors.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Russell’s office for further comment, but he could not immediately be reached.
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