​Will women be able to pass the Army's elite Ranger School?

Army Ranger school allows women a chance at h... 01:55

WASHINGTON -- Of the 399 soldiers who started Ranger training this week, 19 of them were women, marking the first time the notoriously tough course has been opened to females.

They're going through it together but while watching them you can pick out the women -- their hair is closely cropped while the men's heads are shaved. The Army wouldn't allow us to identify or talk to the women.

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U.S. Army Soldiers participate in close arm combatives during the Ranger Course on Ft. Benning, GA., April 20, 2015. Soldiers attend Ranger school to learn additional leadership and small unit technical and tactical skills in a physically and mentally demanding, combat stimulated environment. U.S. ARMY, Spc. Nikayla Shodeen

The women tend to be smaller than the men -- but that didn't matter when it came to the battle carry. This is just the first week of a 62-day course designed to replicate the constant stress, lack of food and sleep deprivation of combat.

The armed services are under orders to open up all their ground combat unites by the end of the year - or give the Secretary of Defense a reason why not. For the Army that meant opening up their grueling Ranger School to women to see if they can make it through.

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U.S. Army Soldiers conduct the Darby Mile buddy run and an obstacle course during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., April 21, 2015. Soldiers attend Ranger school to learn additional leadership and small unit technical and tactical skills in a physically and mentally demanding combat simulated environment. U.S. ARMY, Pfc. Lewis, Antonio

Less than half the men can be expected to make it all the way through. No one knows how the women will do.

First they have to pass a fitness test which includes a five mile run in 40 minutes and 49 push-ups in two minutes. The officers in charge of the course say the women themselves have insisted that standards not be lowered to accommodate them.

A 12-mile foot march has to be completed in three hours. If you don't make it, you're out. During the march they carry 35 pound packs -- eventually they will have to haul up to 115 pounds.

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A U.S. Army Ranger Instructor calls out instructions to Soldiers during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., April 21, 2015. Soldiers attend the Ranger Course to learn additional leadership and small unit technical and tactical skills in a physically and mentally demanding, combat simulated environment. U.S. ARMY, Sgt. Paul Sale

After four days, 184 men and eight women were left. In percentage terms that's pretty close to equal. In the end, making the grade -- man or woman -- will come down to wanting it, really wanting it.

Even if the women pass the course, they won't be allowed to serve in the Ranger Regiment because it is still off limits to women.