Army Ranger School Graduates First Women

     FORT BENNING, Ga. (CN) – On Friday, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver will become the first women to graduate from the Army’s Ranger School and wear the elite Ranger tab on their uniforms.
     The historical event is a stepping stone in the ongoing process for the military to open its combat positions to women.
     In a roundtable discussion held Thursday at Fort Benning, Ga., where the bulk of Ranger School is held and where Friday’s graduation will take place, Griest said she hopes the two women are positive examples.
     “With our performance in Ranger School, I hope we can…show that we can deal with the same stresses that the men can,” she said.
     In January 2013, the Pentagon rescinded all ground combat restrictions for women and directed all military departments, including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and U.S. Special Operations Command, to implement the new policy no later than Jan. 1, 2016.
     The Army, which runs Ranger School, as opposed to the 75th Ranger Regiment, opened the school to women in spring 2015 as a pilot to see if women could complete the course, which includes grueling physical training across woods, mountains and swamplands, with little food and sleep.
     Both women initially failed the first phase of Ranger School but opted to continue with the 62-day course as others dropped out.
     “You have to realize that your mind can take a whole lot more than your body can,” Haver said Thursday.
     Maj. Gen. Scott Miller also spoke Thursday on a leadership panel at Fort Benning.
     “There was a lot of skepticism that we were going to change standards,” Miller said, referring to a belief that the bar should be lowered in order to allow women to pass. “There was no change in the standards. It was professionally and objectively executed.”
     Griest agreed, saying an exception shouldn’t be made for women.
     “I think it’s extremely important [to keep the standards],” she said. “No women that I know would want to go to Ranger School if they change the standards because then it degrades what the tab means. It would lower training for everyone and reduce that quality of training for the entire Army. Maintaining the standards is absolutely imperative, I think.”
     Griest and Haver will be able to wear the highly regarded Ranger tab as of Friday, but will not yet be able to serve as Army Rangers.
     The U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 75th Ranger Regiment is still closed to women. It is currently working with various research and scientific agencies “to review and validate occupational standards to ensure they are current, operationally valid and applied on a gender-neutral basis,” according to the Department of Defense’s website.
     Defense Department spokesman Nate Christensen told Courthouse News via email that the department’s “goal is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the best qualified and the most capable service members, regardless of gender.”
     “The Department is proceeding in a measured and responsible way to open positions to women,” Christensen said.
     Griest said Rangers are leaders in the Army and the tab represents achievement and responsibility.
     “We’re expected to do what we ask of our soldiers, and then some. We’re supposed to be leading from the front and do more than what we ask our soldiers to do,” Griest said. “Having something like the Ranger tab, going to this school, getting this training shows that you are putting forth that effort; you do have the determination to achieve those tasks.”
     One of the women’s Ranger School male peers said, “I don’t care if it’s a male or female. I want them next to me in combat if they have a Ranger tab.”
     There will be 96 new graduates from Ranger School at Fort Benning on Friday morning.
     UPDATE (Friday, Aug. 21): Griest and Haver became the first women to graduate Ranger School on Friday morning. The graduation ceremony was held at Fort Benning, overlooking Victory Pond.
     Notable attendees included congressman Sanford Bishop, Jr. of Georgia and Mark Milley, a four-star general and the 39th Army Chief of Staff.

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