The final eight women still trying to pass the US Army’s Ranger School course have failed one phase of the test, but will get a final chance to try again this week.
The eight, survivors from a group of 19 women on the previously men-only course, will be assessed as commanders decide whether to open the elite Ranger corps to female troops.
They made it through a tough physical test in the first week of the course but they and 101 male soldiers will have to retake the second “Darby phase,” which involves an obstacle course and training in patrolling and tactics.
Most of those who have to repeat the Darby phase “were unsuccessful during several opportunities as a squad leader or team leader at leading a patrol,” Colonel David Fivecoat, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, told AFP.
It is not uncommon for soldiers to fail the Darby phase and to pass it on the second try, officials said.
About 37 percent of successful graduates from the Ranger School have to repeat at least one phase of the 62-day course, according to the US Army.
And about 60 percent of the failures in Ranger School happen in the first four days, when troops have to endure punishing marches, land navigation drills and physical fitness tests.
If soldiers pass the Darby phase, they move on to the mountain phase of the course, before heading to the swamps of Florida.
Commanders will take a decision on whether to permanently open the famed school to women after the current assessment course is completed.
The Pentagon has ordered all branches of the armed forces to open up ground combat jobs to women by 2016.
Chiefs of the armed services can ask for a waiver to continue to exclude women from a particular occupational field, with the final decision up to the defense secretary.
Apart from the Ranger school, the army is carrying out assessments for several combat roles that could potentially scrap prohibitions for female soldiers.
The Marine Corps carried out tests with women taking part in its infantry officer training course, but none passed the tough test.
The Corps is still conducting tests for women in infantry training for enlisted troops.
Women are mostly barred from ground combat jobs in infantry, tank and artillery units.
But, after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with their fluid front lines and where female troops were often in combat, US officials decided to take a second look at the issue.