None of the remaining eight female candidates going through the Army Ranger School made it out of the first phase of training at Fort Benning, Ga., defense officials told Fox News -- though they scored high enough to try again as early as next week. 

The candidates were the first women to train for the elite force as part of a program that began in February. 

While they did not do well enough to move on to the next phase of training, an Army Ranger statement said the eight women -- along with 101 men in the same situation -- will be "recycled," meaning they can re-do the training phase in an upcoming Ranger School session. 

A total of 60 women were originally slated to participate in Ranger Assessment Phase (RAP), according to the Pentagon in January. The Army Times reported in February that 100 women went into the pre-training phase, and in April, 19 women qualified for the first training phase, known as Darby. Within days, that number was down to eight

The next Darby Phase starts May 14, which is when the female candidates can try again. There are two more subsequent phases, for a total of 61 days in Ranger School. 

Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, described those moving on and being "recycled" as a "strong group of soldiers, who are working their way through the U.S. Army's most physically and mentally demanding course."

The training is notoriously difficult, and while eight women and 101 men have to start the training over, about 35 male Ranger students had to drop out entirely because they failed to meet the standards. 

Asked about the female candidates, a defense official told Fox News, "We are committed to opening positions and occupations when and how it makes sense while preserving unit readiness, cohesion, and the quality of the All-Volunteer Force." 

Opponents of opening the military’s combat ranks to women had been concerned that the Ranger tests would be “watered down” to accommodate the female candidates, but reports from the Fort Benning site indicate the Army did everything it could not to give that impression. 

"The key is to ensure we have the right standard for the occupation," the defense official told Fox News on Friday. "Our goal is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the best qualified and the most capable service members, regardless of gender." 

One official who spoke with Fox News claimed the female candidates struggled with the rigors of the training program and had particular difficulties with the intense sleep deprivation involved, and other aspects of the course. 

According to the official website for the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, 60 percent of Ranger School failures occur in the first four days of the (RAP), which includes physical fitness, weapons preparation, navigation, survival and other endurance tests. Maj. William "Shep" Woodard, commander of A Company, Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, which runs the course, told Defense One that a typical completion rate for the pre-assessment is about 57 percent.  

The Rangers also note that 33 percent of the soldiers who graduate Ranger School are typically “recycled,” meaning they have failed the course at least once before. 

The Pentagon lifted its ban on women in combat in 2012 and while they would not have been able to become full members of the Rangers, this would have given them their first foray into all-male Special Operations. Typically attached to combat units, at least 130 women were killed and 800 wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Many were “non-combat” in name only and involved in front line operations all the same.  

Peer evaluations are held periodically in Ranger School, but a defense official could not confirm if those evaluations contributed to the women not completing the first phase of training.  

According to statistics, only 3 percent of the U.S. Army is Ranger-qualified.

Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.