Ranger school success reflects U.S. military's opening to women

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Women Say Proud to Conquer Army Ranger School

Two pioneering women who completed the daunting U.S. Army Ranger school this week said Thursday they hoped their historic achievement would open doors for other females as the Pentagon opens new roles, including elite Navy SEALs, to women.

The feat by Army Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver followed a re-evaluation of the role of women after their frontline involvement in Iraq and Afghanistanand the end of a rule barring them from combat roles in 2013.

"I do hope that with our performance in Ranger School, we have been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military - that we can handle things physically, mentally on the same level as men, and we can deal with the same stresses in training that the men can," said Griest.

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Ranger school success reflects U.S. military's opening to women
FORT BENNING, GA - AUGUST 21: Capt. Kristen Griest salutes during the graduation ceremony of the United States Army's Ranger School on August 21, 2015 at Fort Benning, Georgia . Capt. Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver are the first women ever to successfully complete the U.S. Army's Ranger School. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2015, file photo, U.S. Army First Lt. Shaye Haver, center, and Capt. Kristen Griest, right, pose for photos with other female West Point alumni after an Army Ranger school graduation ceremony at Fort Benning, Ga. Haver and Griest became the first female graduates of the Army's rigorous Ranger School. Their history-making is among the state's top stories of 2015. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut (L) and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas chat as they wait to receive their ranger tabs at Ranger school graduation at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia August 21, 2015. The two pioneering women made history on Friday as they became the first females to graduate from the Army's elite and grueling 62-day Ranger school, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Though Haver and Griest are still not eligible to take part in front-line combat, according to reports, a decision on whether to change that policy could come in the fall.. REUTERS/Tami Chappell
Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut (L) and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas wave to family and friends as they wait to receive their ranger tabs at Ranger school graduation at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia August 21, 2015. The two pioneering women made history on Friday as they became the first females to graduate from the Army's elite and grueling 62-day Ranger school, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Though Haver and Griest are still not eligible to take part in front-line combat, according to reports, a decision on whether to change that policy could come in the fall. REUTERS/Tami Chappell TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas, center, and Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Conn., left rear, stand as they are recognized for being the first female graduates of the Army's Ranger School, during a luncheon for military women â active-duty service members and veterans, spouses and caregivers â at the Vice President's official residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest, left, Maj. Lisa Jaster, center, and First Lt. Shaye Haver, right, pose together after an Army Ranger School graduation ceremony, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, in Fort Benning, Ga. Jaster, who is the first Army Reserve female to graduate the Army's Ranger School, joins Griest and Haver as the third female soldier to complete the school. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)
Maj. Lisa Jaster, center, embraces First Lt. Shaye Haver, left, and U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest, right, after an Army Ranger School graduation ceremony, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, in Fort Benning, Ga. Jaster, who is the first Army Reserve female to graduate the Army's Ranger School, joins Griest and Haver as the third female soldier to complete the school. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)
U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest, left, of Orange, Conn., stands in formation during an Army Ranger School graduation ceremony, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, at Fort Benning, Ga. Griest and First Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female soldiers to complete the Army's rigorous school, putting a spotlight on the debate over women in combat. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut, speaks with reporters Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, at Fort Benning, Ga., where she was scheduled to graduate Friday from the Army’s elite Ranger School. Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver are the first two women to complete the notoriously grueling Ranger course, which the Army opened to women this spring as it studies whether to open more combat jobs to female soldiers. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum)
U.S. Army Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, right, speaks with reporters, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, at Fort Benning, Ga., where she was scheduled to graduate Friday from the Army’s elite Ranger School. Haver and Army Capt. Kristen Griest are the first two women to complete the notoriously grueling Ranger course, which the Army opened to women this spring as it studies whether to open more combat jobs to female soldiers. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum)
In this April 26, 2015, photo, 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, one of the 20 female soldiers, who is among the 400 students who qualified to start Ranger School, tackles the Darby Queen obstacle course, one of the toughest obstacle courses in U.S. Army training, at Fort Benning, in Ga. Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest are the first women to complete the U.S. Army's grueling Ranger School and were scheduled to graduate Friday, Aug. 21, alongside 94 male soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga., families of the soldiers confirmed Wednesday. (Robin Trimarchi/Ledger-Enquirer via AP)
CLEVELAND, GA - JULY 14: U.S. Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver (L) takes part in mountaineering training during the at the U.S. Army Ranger School on Mount Yonah July 14, 2015 in Cleveland, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School. (Photo by Ebony Banks/U.S. Army via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, GA - JULY 14: U.S. Army U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest (2nd L) takes part in mountaineering training during the at the U.S. Army Ranger School on Mount Yonah July 14, 2015 in Cleveland, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School. (Photo by Yvette Zabala-Garriga/U.S. Army via Getty Images)
FORT BENNING, GA - JUNE 23: U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest (R) participates in an obstacle course as part the training at the U.S. Army Ranger School June 23, 2015 at Fort Benning, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School. (Photo by Scott Brooks/U.S. Army via Getty Images)
FORT BENNING, GA - JUNE 28: U.S. Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver (R) participates in an obstacle course as part the training at the U.S. Army Ranger School June 28, 2015 at Fort Benning, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School. (Photo by Scott Brooks/U.S. Army via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, GA - JULY 14: U.S. Army Soldiers 1st Lt. Shaye Haver (R) takes part in mountaineering training during the at the U.S. Army Ranger School on Mount Yonah July 14, 2015 in Cleveland, Georgia. U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were the first female soldiers to graduate from Ranger School. (Photo by Ebony Banks/U.S. Army via Getty Images)
In this April 25, 2015, photo, Capt. Kristen Griest, right, talks to another soldier as she waits at Lawson Airfield for the Airborne Assault exercise to begin during U.S. Army's Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. Griest and 1st Lt. Shayne Haver are the first women to complete the grueling Ranger School and were scheduled to graduate Friday, Aug. 21, alongside 94 male soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga., families of the soldiers confirmed Wednesday, Aug. 19. (Robin Trimarchi/Ledger-Enquirer via AP)
In this April 25, 2015, photo, Capt. Kristen Griest waits at Lawson Airfield for the Airborne Assault exercise to begin during U.S. Army's Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. Griest and 1st Lt. Shayne Haver are the first women to complete the grueling Ranger School and were scheduled to graduate Friday, Aug. 21, alongside 94 male soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga., families of the soldiers confirmed Wednesday, Aug. 19. (Robin Trimarchi/Ledger-Enquirer via AP)
A female Ranger students holds a position with her team during an exercise on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, at Camp James E. Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Two out of 19 females have made it to the final phase ofArmy Ranger training which ends at Camp James E. Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base. Pentagon leaders decided in 2013 to investigate the possibility of opening all military jobs to women. (Nick Tomecek/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)
Army Rangers students carry a zodiac boat into the Yellow River on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, at Camp James E. Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. A female Ranger student is pictured (middle left). Two out of 19 females have made it to the final phase of Army Ranger training which ends at Camp James E. Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base. Pentagon leaders decided in 2013 to investigate the possibility of opening all military jobs to women. (Nick Tomecek/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

A female Army Ranger student lifts a rucksack onto her back on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, at Camp James E. Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Two out of 19 females have made it to the final phase of Army Ranger training which ends at Camp James E. Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base. (Nick Tomecek/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

Captain Kristen Griest (R) participates in the Darby Queen obstacle course as part of the training at the Ranger Course on Ft. Benning Georgia, June 28, 2015. When two women completed the daunting U.S. Army Ranger school this week they helped end questions about whether women can serve as combat leaders, as the Pentagon is poised to open new roles, including elite Navy SEALs, to women in coming months. Army Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver on Tuesday completed a 62-day course including parachute jumps, helicopter assaults, swamp survival and small unit leadership that earned them a Ranger badge. Picture taken June 28, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. Army/Pfc. Ebony Banks/Handout THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

A female Army Ranger student crosses the Yellow River on a rope bridge on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, at Camp James E. Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Two out of 19 females have made it to the final phase of Army Ranger training which ends at Camp James E. Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base. Pentagon leaders decided in 2013 to investigate the possibility of opening all military jobs to women. (Nick Tomecek/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

In this In this Aug. 13, 2013 file photo, U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms Third Class Danielle Hinchliff, left, and Master-at-Arms Third Class Anna Schnatzmeyer, both of Coastal Riverine Squadron 2, train under the watchful eye of instructor Boatswain's Mate Second Class Christopher Johnson, right, while training on a Riverine Assault Boat as they participate in a U.S. Navy Riverine Crewman Course at the Center for Security Forces Learning Site at Camp Lejeune, N.C. As the first two women pass the grueling course to become Army Rangers, the U.S. military services appear poised to allow women to serve in most, if not all, front-line jobs, including as special operations forces, according to several senior officials familiar with the discussions. The decision comes four years after an independent commission recommended opening all combat jobs to women. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)
Soldier climbs the Prusik Tower during the 2004 Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga., April 24, 2004 (Photo by Russ Bryant/WireImage)
FORT BENNING, UNITED STATES: US Army Rangers demonstrate their patroling at the Ranger Training Bridgade at the US Army Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia 20 December 2002. The Ranger's primary mission is to engage in the close combat direct fire battle. AFP PHOTO/Stephen JAFFE (Photo credit should read STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
397109 16: A U.S. Army Ranger climbs a rope during a demonstration of the elite force November 9, 2001 before a graduation ceremony at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. Rangers have been used in the military actions in Afghanistan. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)
397109 14: A U.S. Army Ranger unit goes through its paces during a demonstration of the elite force November 9, 2001 before a graduation ceremony at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. Rangers have been used in the military actions in Afghanistan. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)
397109 13: A U.S. Army Ranger unit goes through its paces during a demonstration of the elite force November 9, 2001 before a graduation ceremony at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. Rangers have been used in the military actions in Afghanistan. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)
397109 04: A U.S. Army Ranger rappels down a tower during a demonstration of the elite force November 9, 2001 before a graduation ceremony at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)
The winners after the last event, Staff Sergeant Adam Nash and Staff Sergeant Colin Boley from the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga., April 24, 2004. (Photo by Russ Bryant/WireImage)
Staff Sergeant Adam Nash of the 75th Ranger Regiment, and Team 15, takes a moment to watch his team mate finish the slide for life at Victory Pond During the Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga., April 24, 2004. (Photo by Russ Bryant/WireImage)
397109 01: A U.S. Army Ranger slides down a cable as an explosion goes off in the backround during a demonstration of the elite force November 9, 2001 before a graduation ceremony at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)
A U.S. Army ranger holds up two Ak-47s that were captured in an assault on a Panamanian Defense Force installation at Rio Hato, north of Panama City, Dec. 21. The boxes contain the weapons. (AP Photo)
U.S. Army rangers take a break on a rooftop during patrols in West Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, April 2, 2005.A car bomb exploded Saturday in central Iraq, killing five people, including four police officers on patrol, while gunmen killed an education official in Baghdad. A U.S. Marine was killed in Ramadi, the military said (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
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The two on Tuesday completed a grueling 62-day course including parachute jumps, helicopter assaults, swamp survival and small unit leadership that earned them a Ranger badge, a prestigious decoration that is held by many senior leaders.

"This is the Army's toughest training," said Sue Fulton, a former Army captain who now chairs the advisory Board of Visitors to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

"If there were any remaining questions about whether women could serve as combat leaders, those questions have been answered," she said.

Griest and Haver, who are both in their mid-20s, faced media questions at an event at Fort Benning, Georgia on Thursday, wearing Army fatigues with hair cropped short just like their male peers.

They will formally graduate from the course on Friday, along with 94 men who completed the training, which began with 19 women and 381 men.

It was the first time women had been allowed to participate and rumors abounded during their training that standards had been lowered to accommodate females. But Major General A. Scott Miller, commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, told reporters the women were held to the same tough requirements as the male counterparts.

Despite some initial skepticism over acceptance by the men, Haver said the challenge at Ranger school was not about gender rivalry but rather an individual quest to fit in as a team member.

"The battles that we won were individual. At each event that we succeeded in, we kind of were winning hearts and minds as we went," she said.

Several of the men graduating noted that any doubts they had quickly evaporated over exhausting and sweaty days during which the women shared their pain equally and gender was not an issue.

Instead, they praised the women for their dependability saying they would happily go to war or share a foxhole with Haver and Griest after observing them during Ranger school.

"These two women have showed themselves that they could serve by my side anytime," said 2nd Lt Erickson Krogh.

OPENING JOBS FOR WOMEN

Two years ago, under then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the U.S. services were told to develop gender-neutral standards for all jobs and to report by this September whether any jobs should remain closed to women.

Women serving in traditional noncombat roles had increasingly found themselves in combat positions. Special operations forces in Afghanistan, for example, found they needed women troops accompanying them to interact with Afghan women.

Since 2013, a number of changes have made women eligible for 111,000 jobs from which they had been excluded, while about 220,000 jobs remain closed to them, said Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

The Pentagon will announce in January which additional positions would be opened.

The Air Force opened combat pilot jobs to women in 1983. In the Navy only special warfare operators like Navy SEALs and special warfare boat operators remain men-only.

Navy spokesman Commander William Marks said the service did not plan to seek exceptions that would prevent women from serving in any positions when it reports to Carter in September.

(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein and David Adams; Editing by David Storey, Richard Pullin, Alan Crosby)

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