So last Tuesday I met up with on old friend whom I last saw in South Africa over forty years ago (!), and whose two sons (who both live and work in London) very kindly invited us to tea at the Ritz Hotel to celebrate the occasion.
I’ve had high tea before, often, when I’ve been in England, at places like The Pump Room in Bath and at Fortnum’s (to name but two of the snootier places), but never before at the Ritz. Even though I’d once stayed there a couple of days, that was a business trip and there was no time to enjoy the relaxing pleasure of sitting in the Tea Room and having elegant flunkies cater to one’s every need and whim, with no time pressure, no limit (the food and tea are, of course, bottomless) and to cap it all, a glass of their signature champagne.
“More tea, sir? A different tea this time? Of course, sir. And more scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, sir? Right away.”
I know, I know, it’s a bloated plutocrat way of living, but good grief, how I love it. The food is beyond description.
Best of all, though, is that the sheer majesty of the place puts everyone on their best behavior. All around us were people dressed well: jackets and ties for the men, elegant dresses and such for the ladies, no loud chatter or noise — just the murmur of voices, the clinking of silver flatware on china, and in the background, a piano player giving us a tour of the old standards.
And this wasn’t an English Rich White Person event, either; the Ritz has always catered to people from all nations, so it was like 57 varieties in there — but all dressed impeccably, all well-mannered, and all enjoying one of the great treats in life: tea at the Ritz. I have no idea how much it costs (it’s probably online somewhere) and one does have to make a reservation, such is its demand. Whatever, it’s all worth it once you’re there.
Anyone who goes to London and doesn’t do this, at least once, has done themselves a profound disservice.
And my deepest gratitude to Hamish and Andrew for the invitation. I will never forget it.
One school of thought is that Army schools should weed out those we don't want.
The other school of thought is that the school is there to train and develop Soldiers. I generally fall closer to this school of thought.
As far as the women in Ranger school goes, these two articles are worth the read.
Weaponsman has one take: http://weaponsman.com/?p=24857
Other student has a different take: http://sofrep.com/42761/really-happened-women-ranger-school-class-06-15/
Whether they "earned it" or not will probably be argued long after I've given up caring about the subject.
When we let women into Airborne school we didn't stop getting paratroopers. The school is just a school, and the difference between going through Airborne school in 1998 (left foot injury on my second jump and medically dropped) it was mandatory runs and don't you dare fall out. Going back through Airborne school in 2007, I can tell you that the school definitely did get easier. But it got easier because we went from an Army at peace, to an Army at war, and during war the training emphasis becomes "train 'em up and ship 'em out!" more than weeding out people who don't deserve to be there. We were an all volunteer Army at war, and everyone at Airborne school volunteered to be there, how much more weeding out do you need?
As a 24 day non-select from SFAS (way back in the day, 2001, five full years before I commissioned) and getting peered out as the weakest guy in the squad (I was, but I'm still proud to be the weakest guy amongst the peer group I had, those guys were just amazing) I understand how a training school and a selection process are different. Ranger school is not a unit selection process, and the peer evaluations are basically there to be the non-academic weed out process that gets rid of the people who are strong enough, smart enough, but aren't the team players you want on your team.
Getting peered out in SFAS and in Ranger school was a learning point for me, not that I'm a bad person, but that my personality and leadership style were not meeting the expectations of my peers. So I changed my leadership style on my second go through to something much more directive and began peering much higher and went on to graduate. Possibly our two female Rangers did the same as me and used the peers process as a feedback tool to change their behaviors in order to gain the approval of their next set of fellow students. I don't know, I wasn't there.
On a different note, the Ranger school curriculum is constantly evolving. My class didn't have to do a 12 mile ruck march because the Ft. Benning commander stopped all ruck marches longer than 8 miles because of a heat wave and a Soldier dying on 12 miler. Am I less of a Ranger because my RAP week ruck march was only 8 miles? It would be easy to make that argument. When I took a double recycle (from Mountains back to Darby) I had an entirely different experience going through the second time. A different set of RIs, a different set of students, and I'd changed as well in that I knew what NOT to do and much more of WHAT to do. Sometimes a lot of things just come down to dumb luck.
In the end a school that doesn't have a weed out function is not worth the effort. Standards exist to let us know who meets them and who doesn't. The Army policy on recycling students is very generous for most formal schools that involve either temporary duty (TDY) or change of station (TCS or PCS orders) to attend. So the danger to Ranger school isn't that women can attend and graduate, it is that the weed out function would be compromised in order to graduate more women for some reason. 400 volunteers, 138 chances at RTAC, 20 graduate RTAC, 19 start Ranger school, 2 finish with one more possible. I'm ok with those numbers. But when someone dictates that graduation rates for males and females must be the same? I'm most definitely NOT ok with that.
The historical numbers for women earning the Sapper tab are indicative that there will be a lot of women washing out of Ranger school, but so far having women attend the course hasn't stopped Sapper school from being the best pre-Ranger course in the Army. Seriously the Sapper tab holders who attend have an insanely high go rate compared to the normal population.
The point of the training at Ranger school isn't to teach tactics (at least for the Infantry, Cav Scout, SF and Engineers, who used to be the only MOS's that could attend outside of Regiment), it is to teach you how deep you can dig, how hard you can push, and how the limits we think we have are just illusions to push through. Whether or not the women deserve their tabs, I'm absolutely positive that they did achieve that point. I'm sure they learned other things as well.
Our nation has decided that women will be in the Army, and that there will not be a draft. The women who are here have all signed on the dotted line, and if Ranger school can make them better by all means give them a chance to learn something. These are all consequences of choices made long ago to get rid of the draft, and open up support jobs to women to fill in for the lack of capable motivated men in those fields. If you don't like it, call your representatives. I sure as hell can't do jack about it.