– Two of the three women trying to become the first females to complete the most difficult mental and physical training offered by the U.S. Army have moved within one step of earning the Ranger tab.

The Army announced Friday that two of the three women, who are all West Point graduates, passed the mountain phase of the patrols and will move to Florida this weekend to begin the swamp phase, which is the final step in the arduous training.

There are 125 male soldiers moving with the women to Camp Rudder, near Destin, Fla. There were about 200 soldiers in the class when it started July 11 at Camp Merrill in the north Georgia mountains. The woman who did not pass the mountain phase will be given a second attempt in the mountains.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis L. Smith, whose last assignment was in 2012 with the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning, said the two women have passed some of the toughest parts of the course.

“Statistically speaking, there is a 90 percent success rate once the course moves to Florida,” said Smith, who owns Uncommon Athlete, a Columbus, Ga., fitness facility that offers a Ranger School preparation program.

The two women have emerged from a group of about 130 women who came to Fort Benning earlier this year to participate in a pre-Ranger course. That number was cut to 20, of which 19 started the Ranger School course.

After a weeklong physical assessment phase, the group of 19 women was reduced to eight. In the Camp Darby phase, where small unit patrols are introduced into the training, all eight women failed on two attempts. On May 29, three of the women were offered the opportunity to start the school over from the beginning.

All three women accepted the offer.

The women are attending the Ranger training program for the first time as part of an ongoing assessment by the military about how it should better integrate women into combat roles in the military. It follows a 2013 decision by Pentagon leaders to open all jobs in the military to women by 2016. The services were required to conduct research first, and are permitted to request an exception to the new policy in coming months for any jobs they want to keep closed, provided they can show evidence that it wouldn’t work.

“Do I think we are about to have a female Ranger?” said Smith, “I think we are real close to having two.”

 

The Washington Post contributed to this report.