Mark Humphrey, File, Associated Press
In this Sept. 18, 2012 file photo, female soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division train on a firing range while testing new body armor in Fort Campbell, Ky., in preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan. The U.S. Army is opening the door for women to go to Ranger school.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is opening the door for women to go to Ranger school.

It's one of the first steps in the broader effort to allow women to begin moving into more grueling combat jobs.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno says he believes he will be able to put women in the Ranger course next spring.

While completing the leadership course would let women wear the coveted Ranger tab, it does not let them become members of the Ranger regiment. Currently only men can be in the 75th Ranger Regiment — the special operations forces unit based at Fort Benning, Georgia. Joining the regiment requires additional difficult schooling.

Women can now begin volunteering for the course and will also be asked to serve as advisers and observers.