By Julissa Catalan
For the first time in history, the Army is allowing women to attend Ranger School—one of the most physically grueling training courses in the military.
Secretary of the Army John McHugh approved the change that allows up to 60 women to enroll in the two-month Ranger course, which is set to begin on April 20.
The average class size is 300.
“Those who meet the standards and graduate from the course will receive a certificate and be awarded the Ranger tab,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ben Garrett, an Army spokesman.
While this milestone puts women soldiers one step closer to being considered for the military special operations unit, they are still ineligible to become actual members of the Ranger regiment. The 75th Ranger Regiment, based out of Fort Benning, Ga., remains a boys-only club.
To prepare for Ranger School, both women and men can participate in a 16-day training and assessment school that will teach them infantry and combat skills they do not already have.
Ranger School is far more physically, emotionally and mentally demanding than regular training—including long patrols conducted on minimal or no sleep as well as marches carrying heavy loads.
While the Pentagon removed its ban on women in combat jobs back in 2013, the military branches were allotted additional time to gradually integrate female soldiers into their new roles. That June, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a highly decorated combat veteran who was a sergeant in the Vietnam War, announced plans to open combat roles to women.
By January 2016, each branch must open all combat jobs to women or give adequate reason for why it will not.
A request waiver is still allowed if a branch wants to exclude women from any occupational field, with valid reason.
Additionally, military leaders have made it clear that they will not reduce or eliminate standards for any jobs to make it easier on women.
While men in the Army may be hesitant about the inclusion of women in Ranger School, Nancy Duff Campbell, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center, said allowing women to compete for all jobs will ensure the military gets the best people—not just the best men.
“We think women should be permitted to compete for everything,” she said.