FORT SHAFTER -- Members of the 205th Military Intelligence Battalion gathered at, Richardson Theater, here, for a gender integration and professional development discussion, May 1, and again May 4, led by 1st Lt. Tracy L. Ross, executive officer, Company C, 205th MI Bn., 500th MI Brigade.

Ross, one of 28 female leaders selected from across the Army, shared insight from her recent work as an observer/adviser while integrated within the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade (ARTB) as part of the assessment of female integration into U.S. Army Ranger School, Fort Benning, Georgia.

The selection process for the observer/advisers was nothing to scuff at.

"In order to serve as an observer/adviser, I had to complete a Ranger physical assessment, land navigation, combat water survival assessment, a 12-mile road march -- with a minimum of 35 pounds, course performance review board and an operations order test," exclaimed Ross.

"The observer/advisers aren't students in the course, but hand-selected Soldiers brought on to offer feedback on the integration of women into Ranger School," she explained.

One argument against the integration of females in Ranger School is the possibility of a reduction in standards.

"Ranger School is the most physically rigorous course in the Army and will remain that way because the standards are not changing," Ross said, confidently. "The females are held to the same standards as the males. The Ranger instructors adamantly enforce the standards across the board."

Currently, Ranger School is 62 days long. Five days are spent at Camp Rogers, Fort Benning, Georgia, for the Ranger Assessment Phase (RAP week); 17 days are spent at Camp Darby, also at Benning; 21 days at Camp Frank F. Merrill, Dahlonega, Georgia; and 19 days at Camp James E. Rudder, Eglin AFB, Florida.

Four hundred Soldiers arrived at Fort Benning to begin Ranger School on April 20. Out of those eager to start training, 19 were female. All of the females had been invited to this one-time assessment after successfully completing the Ranger Training Assessment Course (RTAC), which is a pre-Ranger course held at Fort Benning, and conducted by the Army National Guard.

Eight females and 119 males failed the first week of the Ranger Course, which included the Ranger physical assessment, combat water survival assessment, land navigation and a 12-mile foot march.

"Female Ranger students will be graded and evaluated by the Ranger instructors under the same standards as the male Ranger students. The standards will not change," said Ross.

After successfully completing the "Benning Phase" of the Ranger School, the Ranger students began the next phase of training, May 8, as they moved into the mountains of Dahlonega, Georgia.

No stranger to Ranger School, Capt. George Gurrola, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 205th MI Bn., 500th MI Bde., graduated from the course in 2009.

"Those who continue to meet the standards and graduate from Ranger School earn the privilege to wear the Ranger tab," he stated.

"I'm thankful to serve among the most elite Soldiers and be part of this historic opportunity," said Ross. "It is admirable to see any Soldier volunteer for Ranger School, especially females.

"Shattering barriers is what the Army is all about," she added.