Lurking beneath the Yellow River running through these parts are venomous cottonmouths and alligators roughly the length of a VW bus. That’s not to mention palm snakes with razor-sharp teeth, coral snakes and, for good measure, biting flies and ravenous quicksand.
Equally perilous, these environs breed the sort of lingering damp that can work nefarious wonders on feet and wear down hearts and minds with considerable haste.
It is here in this final phase of Army Ranger School that students must prove once-and-for-all that they have what it takes to lead dog-tired soldiers in the toughest of conditions, as they trudge along sandy boot-swallowing banks with as little food and sleep as most of them have ever been forced to endure, prepared to hunt or be hunted.
Good luck to these women, and the men as well. You're all crazy, but I guess someone has to be.
The inherent hazards of the school have long been a point of pride here. What is new are the two female soldiers within the student ranks, part of the Pentagon’s current experiment involving whether women can – and should – inhabit this predacious world.
Their performance to date is inspiring many Ranger School instructors, who admit that they had their doubts in the beginning, to come to what they see as an ineluctable conclusion: that their female compatriots can – and should – be here.