Ruck Weight Was Not Lowered for Female Ranger Students


Late last week, it appeared that the Army had lowered the standard for the 12-mile foot march in the first co-ed class of Ranger School.

Army officials from Fort Benning, Ga., put out a statement that eight female candidates had competed the Ranger Assessment Phase, or RAP week, which included a 12-mile march with a 35-pound rucksack, rifle and fighting load carrier vest. did a story last November from an interview with Col. David Fivecoat, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Benning, that Ranger students had to carry a ruck weighing approximately 43 pounds on the march which has to be completed in under three hours.

I noticed the eight-pound discrepancy and so did a reader, who emailed me about it.

I asked Fort Benning about it, and here is what Col. William J. Butler, deputy commandant of U.S. Army Infantry School at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning, had to say.

“The weight of the rucksack for the 12-mile foot march is 35 lbs., dry weight,” Butler wrote in an emailed response. “With the 8 quarts of water, that is an additional 16 lbs. on each student. Six of those quarts (12 lbs) are in the rucksack and two each one quarts (4lbs) are on the vest. The rucksack weighs 47 lbs with the water in it that the students consume throughout the foot march.”

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Matthew Cox
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  • FormerSFMedic

    What a joke!

    • true

      I’m still trying to find when the rucks dropped from 70 lbs PLUS your two quarts of water…

      • Jon

        35 lbs without water is the regular infantry standard for 12 miles, I don’t recall it being that light in RIP back when I was at Ft. Benning. What am I missing?

        • 35lbs is the standard in the most basic training situations (as in non combat unit situations). In over 20 years of serving in the Infantry I’ve never seen or even heard of a 35 lb rucksack for a 12 mile road march.

          Actual combat units march with significantly if not three times more. The belief that the ruckis so light might be a byproduct of a decade of operating from fixed bases and not actually having to carry a sustainment load. It’s a very bad lesson some may have learned.

          • Terry B.


            I’m pretty sure that 35 lbs has been the EIB (Expert Infantry Badge) 12 mile road march standard for decades. It most certainly still was when I left the infantry in 88. It has also been the Air Assault School 12 mile road march standard forever.

            But it wasn’t always like that. When I earned the EIB in 1977 we didn’t have rucksacks. For the 12 mile road march We carried M16 A1 rifle, steel pot, buttpack (with poncho, 1 C-ration and a change of socks) e-tool (the wooden handle version) and one canteen with cup. That was all. I don’t know what that came to in total weight but it wasn’t 35 lbs. That was the standard then.

            I frankly don’t remember what the load was for the 12 mile road march in Ranger school when I went there in the 80s. But I don’t think it was 70 lbs.


          • I fondly remember the 12 miler in Ranger School (’88). It wasn’t the 80-90 lb ruck I carried in the field in the 101st but it was pretty close. It was nowhere near the 35 lb pillow I carried in Air Assault school in ’86 or when I earned my EIB in ’88. Interesting story, in ’87 of the 600 EIB candidates from 2nd Bde 101st, zero earned it. The following year I and 11 others in my brigade earned the award, again from 600 candidates.

            What I was saying is I’m aware of the 35lb standard in school and canned events like AASLT and the EIB. In the years I spent in the company level and later at BN, I remember infantrymen going to the field and walking much farther than 12 miles with rucksacks twice as heavy and for the majority of grunts much more.

            For every squad and platoon eval/ARTEP I have been part of or heard of the 12 mile road march live fire was done with rucksacks which at a minimum weighed 70 lbs. We also carried our platoon equipment including the medium machine gun complete which was switched around among the troops to ensure we made the 3 hour standard to the range where a live fire was conducted.

          • Terry B.

            Small world. I was Ranger Class 2-88.

            I agree that unit training and real world loads are usually much higher than a school house or test event. But it is important to keep in mind that students are being graded and are required only to meet whatever the “minimum standard” for a GO in any event.

            Time for example, doing the 12 miles in 2 hours meant you were a stud…but the guy who came in at 2 hs 59 mins and 59 seconds met the standards and is still a GO too.

          • “But it is important to keep in mind that students are being graded and are required only to meet whatever the “minimum standard” for a GO in any event.”

            That’s generally true but the most demanding schools have standards much higher than the minimums of other schools and they aren’t so concerned with students passing the minimums as the students demonstrating/learning what is expected of the course.

          • Terry B.

            You are absolutely right that tougher schools have tougher standards. But every school has an established fixed standard for any task that the students are graded on that can be evaluated objectively like ‘knot tying”. And even detailed guidelines to help the cadre judge those tasks that are more subjective like “exhibited appropriate leadership skills”..

            Ranger School, BUDs, SFQC all have standards established that are tailored to the school’s training mission. In some cases the student may not be informed of the standard and be told to “do the best they can”. But there is a standard. And if the candidate meets whatever that “minimum” standard is they are GOs.

            That is not to say students go into any school blind. The purpose of all of these schools is to produce graduates who have met the course standards. And each of these schools produces and distributes unclassified and detailed training aids that tell students what they need to do to prepare physically and professionally to successfully pass the course.

            Ranger School is no exception. And additionally, in the case of Ranger school, many candidates have been required by their units to pass a formal “Pre-Ranger” train up of some kind. In this case I understand that all the women involved did just that.

            The Road March, PT Test, Swim Test, Darby Queen, etc. are certainly relevant events. But at the end of the day, Ranger School is a leadership school. Extended patrolling is simply the vehicle that sets the conditions for student leadership skills to be evaluated. As someone else mentioned below that is where all the candidates will be truly tested. I wish all of them the best of luck.

            As an aside, I lost track of my main point in my earlier response. I went down memory lane not to be nostalgic but to point out that in some cases (EIB, AASLT School specifically) baseline standards have not changed in a very long time (GWOT or women attending notwithstanding).

          • Pamela

            I in the SC State Guard. Last fall I went on our aunaul Hurican Hike in Camdin and carried 45 lb ruck. I am 54 years old and a female. I think they must have lower the weight of the rucksack. It use to be 60-90 lbs. My son-in-law’s ruck weighs 60lbs not counting helmet, vest, and weapon. He is active duty Army.

  • Bill

    From Ranger preparation course list:
    12 Mile Foot March Action:
    Conduct a 12 mile Foot March, mass start release. Conditions: Given a Ranger Company in ACU’s, boots, FLC, individual weapon, patrol cap, and rucksack containing the appropriate seasonal packing list weighing a minimum 35 lbs (without water), on a 12 mile measured course. Standards: Each Ranger must complete the established distance of the foot march at no slower than a 15-minute per mile pace. Students must complete the foot march with the appropriate packing list

    • Jon

      That’s the normal infantry standard

  • U.S. Marine

    Fellas – find me ONE military school POI/training schedule that hasn’t been adjusted over the past year. The “back when I went through…” rhetoric is so old. Gear changes, vehicles change, tactics change… things change fellas. How trite it is to imply that the standards have been “quietly adjusted” so the girls can make it. “I heard they only hump 3 miles vs. the 700 when I went through…” Sweet Jesus – the louder the bitchin’ the more I think that Ranger school was the end all be all for some of these cats… and the very fabric of their manhood is completely unraveling if a chick makes it through. Never seen a bigger batch of cry babies…

    • darthgall

      Yup. Back in the day my dad carried an M1 Garand, and he kept giving me shit about a heavier rifle. 9.5 lbs. But a loaded M16 is right at 9 lbs. And he was shocked at how heavy the advanced combat helmet was, once I showed him some of th stuff, kept saying it was heavier than the steel pot he wore… pretty much the same thing, “back when I was in…” and when I showed him the body armor with plates… shocked doesn’t begin to cover it. It put a quick stop to all the “uphill both ways with 2X the weight” he had been spouting.
      He still gives me shit about the units he was in being better and tougher than my units, though…

      • Reader

        Yep! I say, back in my day we had plate armor, a shield, and a broadsword! None of this lightweight nonsense.

      • tiggersbounce

        Be thankful you had some new kit to show your dad. I served in the Australian Army in the early 90’s and I didn’t have a single piece of new kit to show him to start with and he served in the early 70’s! Same rifle, same uniform, same pack… You get the idea. In fact I was able to use some of my dad’s stuff (1970’s) and my cousin’s stuff (1980’s) as spares for parades or when the QMS ran out.

    • Geof

      Except, the only thing that hasn’t been adjusted down, is actual combat loads. They’ve did nothing but go up. Combat load, with armor, just on your body is 90 lbs or more, figure it up. Ruck is another 70+ lbs.

      “if a chick makes it through”, my manhood isn’t the concern, other than it’s attached to the rest of me. It’s who’s going to deadlift my 220 lbs carcass with another 90 lbs of gear (without ruck) out of the beaten zone.

      Ranger school…who cares. Other than it’s one more step to women in combat arms. I’ve got enough on my plate, without carrying my load and theirs too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman, that can carry 150 lbs up and over the mountain, for days, and fight once she gets there. And unlike a 18 YO male private, she’s not going to grow into it.

      • dirtyrob

        I agree. My Father’s last two years in the “regular” Army were as a Ranger Tactical Instructor. He was always vehemently opposed to women being in the “elite” Combat Units. He had one experience as a BN S-2 when they had the most STD’s in the whole Division(1st Cav) After an intensive investigation it turned out that a female trooper was impersonating a male and not getting caught for a few months, even after engagements. However, her greed got the best of her, when she decided to make some “easy money” off the guys in her Co. Evidently, she DID “fight like hell” before getting caught.

    • James B.

      We should be trying to up the standards of our schools, not watering them down.

    • balais

      The only thing that has “changed” is that infantryman are required to carry more weight than previous decades. Lowering standards based off vehicle-centric operations and the assumption that long ruck marches are vietnam-era relics doesn’t do anybody any favors. That part about training how you intend to fight…

      The concern that Ranger school will become a goat circus for political correctness and “inclusion”, at the risk of imperling future generations of warfighters, is a legit concern to me. One that shouldn’t be discounted if you intend to win in future wars. Because lets me honest, the PC crowd isn’t fooling anybody. Least of all, our geopolitical adversaries that intend on fighting us.

      Dismissing the real world experience of those objecting to such changes is one of the most arrogant sins of the PC ‘inclusion’ crowd as well.

    • CommNurse

      Good post

    • Bluto

      Okay Marine. Cry baby? Yea there will be cry babies in the jar head land too when you are forced to serve in an infantry line company with one of these new “Marine Female Company Commanders”. You have 100% female failure rates and a 50% failure rate for men in your infantry school. 100%? Why is that? Standards. Your leaders have not bowed down to get a star. But you will one day. You will get a weakling at the Chief of Staff position level like we did Fat Ray O and he will want to make Barry happy. How many women can actually do it? I’d say about 1% of the population. Have no problem with women but not in an a fighting position. You are not infantry I sense. Don’t change a standard in order to play PC. Men will die one day because of this. Cry baby? Yea I will cry when a Ranger is killed because of PC. I will.

  • Noel

    12 Miles? It was 16 in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. I also read about a “1 mile buddy run” somewhere that this class did. Did they lower it from 1.5 at some point?

    I’m against women in the infantry but do admit that they ought to get a chance to try Ranger School. As you guys know, RAP week and the Darby Queen are comparitively easy, no matter what the media is saying about this “incredible feat” the women are doing. Patrolling is where the real suck begins – rucks are heavier and (later on) bodies are weaker. This class DOES have the benefit of good temperatures so they won’t overheat or freeze compared to summer/winter classes.

    • R.Phillips

      Absolutely correct about when the “suck” begins. I remember first patrol out of desert phase base camp, as an assistant gunner on the patrol. I had the opportunity to jump on a scale prior to heading out. I had lost 10 lbs of body weight and my LBE, M16 & 7 mags, ammo for the M60, tripod, water and all other assorted gear was 125 lbs. Finished the first patrol, hit the OBJ, hotwash and then the RIs marched us around the desert until the sun came up. From there we started planning the mission. Physically and mentally exhausting non-stop stuff.

    • Bill H

      I was an instructor at the Ranger Department from 82 to 86 and 88 to 89, and I can tell you the road march has always been 12 miles; which is the EIB standard road march. People shouldn’t comment on things they no nothing about.

      I do agree that women do not belong in the Infantry, but more because of the American males attitude towards women and not their ability to fight. These guys are going to be more worried about “Sweaty Betty” than they will be about anything else.

  • JESullivan

    SORRY..NO girls on my Fire Team!! Bad Mix…

    • Blue

      I agree.

  • Tim Marquart

    Its comments like these that make me hope with every ounce of my being that these women make it through. Where I was once ambivalent, I am now deeply interested and strongly in their favor.

  • scout

    I was in during the late 70 s and the women wanted to do what the men were doing so they started lowering standards then I couldn’t understand why I had to be stronger and faster than the women that did the same job as I was doing. then at pldc school they wanted me to share a shelter half with a female I refused wife would not like that to well. Also if she was have trouble at a task all the horny young men were more than eager to help. so did she really make it with even standards I think not and they wont make it with even standers at ranger school.

  • mervo

    I have no problems with standards changing if it they are changed to protect the soldier (how is everyone’s knees these days from rucking 70-100lbs, mine suck) I have no problem with gear changing to reflect the current battle fields. However, women in a ranger unit DOES worry me a bit, (not being a crying little bitch here) but I could see problems occurring at a FOB far away from the real world.

    The last thing we need is rangers getting D.D. for things that could have been prevented simply by not allowing women in combat zones.

    • Common Sense

      This has nothing to do with modern reality. This is a TEST- that is supposed to mimick what is ACTUALLY done. Rucks are the same or heavier than they were 20 years ago when actually carrying them for operations- so why make the TEST of that skill (carrying a ruck for distance and time) easier- when the ACTUAL job of doing it has stayed the same or gotten harder through additional weight?

    • Dogman

      There are exceptions to the rule..but there won’t be enough females who will complete that would make a formidable force of any sort…But, knowing is better than not knowing..Lets get over this distraction and get back to training !
      WhooAhhh AIRBORNE

  • Destro

    i really didnt care at first, but now i want them to make it just to see you guys pissed off, get over yourselves

    • Bruce

      I don’t mind if they make it, but don’t water down the standards to achieve that. If they can’t do a 12 mile march with a 70 pound pack, how are they going to be able to carry loads that are usually more than that in combat.

    • crackedlenses

      The only reason they are making it now is because the standards have changed in recent for a variety of reasons.

  • Mark_Thomason

    Back in the day? In WW2, loads were adjusted. They were what the sergeant thought each guy ought to be able to carry.

    My father was a barely 18 scrawny Navy radioman assigned to the Marines, teamed with “Swede” who was huge. Swede carried most of the radio, and by choice carried a BAR too. My father carried some lighter gear and an M-1 Carbine. Each guy carried what Sgt. Brown said he would carry.

    It makes sense that someone carries less than another guy 50% or more bigger, all muscle.

    The question is, do you want the lightweight there, do you want that help? No sensible organization will load everyone exactly the same no matter what they are able to carry. Qualification in special schools is another subject entirely.

    • James B.

      In WW II, we worked with what we had. Today, we have lots of volunteers, so we don’t need to compromise.

    • Glc

      What did Audi Murphy weigh?

  • Mongo

    The question is, why and is this sustainable? When making decisions based on popular belief which is really what this is about, so everyone can make rank and take care of self… What happened to leadership making the right decision, not the right decision for self. Woman deserve to be paid across the board equally to men, but when it come to the Defense of Nation… I am in no doubt of worth in combat, just not in roles where all will make adjustments that really don’t serve to win the fight. Female sleeping areas, head calls and hygiene. For the few that will make it, the masses will have to adjust…to what end?

  • David

    Talk about inequality! If these women want to be Rangers they need to be able to do the same thing as the men in Ranger school. What would you have the army do? Make the men carry part of a woman’s work load? Tell the women to carry less water, food or ammo. When the sh-t hits the fan they will need every bit of supplies they are required to carry. What would happen if a male got shot and a woman was asked to carry her load plus the wounded male. This is kinda like the guy that wanted the AMA to lower the testing standards so he could become a doctor. He couldn’t make the grade on his own so he started screaming that the test was racially geared so he couldn’t cut the mustard on his own!

    • walt

      how did that race get in there dave?

  • SFC Maring, USA Ret

    If you want to be a Ranger, Pass the test. That is what it takes and that is the way it needs to be.

  • Sgt.G

    When A fire team is in a combat situation, everyone on the team MUST be mentally and physically able to perform any task thrown their way. There cannot be a weak link on the team or Rangers will die. If a soldier wants to be part of an elite combat ready fighting team, they MUST be able to perform all minimal requirements set forth by the schools qualifications in order to become a Ranger. If a soldier cannot meet the SAME requirements as others, then they should be dropped from the class. (Male or Female)

  • Gerry Nance

    See: potassium deficiency hypokalemia? Use a dash of salt substitute in your water and Gatorade powder, before, during and after the exercise.

  • tgreenly

    Interesting that they now use headlights.

  • Pitts

    Hand to Hand Pit…I guest they would partner with each other.


    I am sadden by the narrow minded men who are worried about “girl cooties”. I have heard every reason in the book from male soldiers as to WHY they think women should “just be support back home”. Not one of them seems to be valid. I hope more that they never tell their daughters who dream of doing something “that’s for boys”. Quite frankly it is embarrassing to think many modern men STILL think this way. To those of you (especially leaders) who know better, you will reap the rewards of taking the best your soldiers have to offer.

  • J-SOTA

    35 Lbs? Not lowered?, in the 90’s a certification ruck was 65lbs dry. And, I couldn’t go to Ranger school because there were women in my MOS, despite my V slot. This is horse shit, more pushing female officers to the top. I have no fear of women in combat, I’ve sent plenty of women hold their own on a machine gun and one of the best squad leaders I ever had (SSG Geraldine Gates, Hooah!) is a woman but, that’s a long way from an SR or DA mission. @Airborne Army Girl, Why are you afraid of real standards? No Ranger ruck ever weighs 35lbs in the field, ever. Ever ever.

  • J-SOTA

    Another thing, they all look like a bunch of idiots with the red led head lamps on, training or not. Train as you fight, without lights. I guess this was because some troops don’t have color vision? Wtf! I thought the Guard was bad. I don’t even want to pay taxes anymore if the Army is just pissing money away!