How One Female Soldier Trained for the “Toughest Training Course” in the Army

Photo: Getty/Stanislaw Pytel
As the United States Army's website puts it: "Ranger School is one of the toughest training courses for which a Soldier can volunteer." It lasts for a minimum of 62 days and involves three phases—starting with some hardcore fitness tests, followed by 20-straight days and nights of operating in rugged mountain conditions with full gear and very little food or water, and to finish, 16 days of learning how survive in a "jungle and swamp environment". It's mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting (in case you need quantifiable proof of just how exhausting: One estimation claims that only about 50 percent of the Soldiers who start in the program actually finish it out to graduate.

Unlike many other areas of the Armed forces, women are held to the exact same physical standards as their male counterparts. Women actually weren't allowed in Ranger School until 2015, and since they've been granted entry into the program, they haven't been given any special treatment as far as the rules of requirement go.  "I really liked that it was at one standard,  because then no one can say: 'Well, you only made it through because you're a woman.' And to me, that's important," says Lieutenant Emily Lilly, who graduated from Ranger School in 2018 at age 38—the first-ever female Army Guard Soldier to do so.

Obviously, this undertaking is not for the faint of heart, and requires some major physical fitness to get in. Before a Solider even starts Ranger School, they need to complete the following:

Ranger Physical Fitness Test

  •  49 pushups in 2 minutes
  • 59 sit-ups in 2 minutes
  • 5-mile run in 40 minutes
  • 6 chin ups
  • 15-meter swim with gear

Then comes the "Combat Water Survival," which involves a long walk at 35-foot height, a 75-foot zip line and the 15 meter swim. And finally, there's the ruck, in which solders hike 12 miles with 35lbs plus 8 quarts of water and a rifle in three hours.

Are you exhausted just reading that? Because, same.

So how, exactly, does one prepare for Ranger Physical Fitness Test? "It required me to do a lot of physical training to figure out what I needed exactly to do to be able to meet that standard...So I just researched online specific things that I could do to build up strength and came up with my own training plan" says Lilly. "I would start working out at about 5 or 5:30 in the morning. I did a huge combination of lifting weights, long distance running, and rucking, which is basically carrying a heavy weight through the woods. So, it was a combination of all those things to build all the strength and endurance I needed."

ICYWW, Lilly passed her test with flying colors (she estimates that something like 100 students dropped out of the 400-person class during that fitness test) and went on to graduate in 2018—stronger than ever.

Some other things we've learned from the Armed forces lately, aside from the fact that the Ranger School Fitness Test is really hard: How to fold our clothes, and how to fall asleep quickly.

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