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

Then U.S. Army First Lieutenant Kirsten Griest (C) and fellow soldiers participate in combatives training during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Georgia, in this handout photograph taken on April 20, 2015 and obtained on August 20, 2015. When Griest and another woman 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. The feat by Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver followed a re-evaluation of the role of women after their frontline involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and the end of a rule barring them from combat roles in 2013.

(REUTERS/Spc. Nikayla Shodeen/U.S. Army/Handout via Reuters)

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)

U.S. Army Soldiers take part in the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Georgia, April 21, 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 April 21, 2015.

(REUTERS/U.S. Army/Sgt. Paul Sale/Handout)

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.

(Ebony Banks/U.S. Army via Getty Images)

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)

U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest (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)

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)

Captain Kristen Griest (L) participates in training at the U.S. Army Ranger School on Ft. Benning Georgia, June 23, 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 23, 2015.

(REUTERS/U.S. Army/Spc. Eric Hurtado/Handout)

First Lt. Shaye Haver (center) and Capt. Kristen Griest (center right) are surrounded by a group of female friends and supporters after receiving their Ranger tab and graduating from the United States Army's Ranger School during a ceremony at Fort Benning, Georgia on August 21, 2015. Griest and Haver are the first females to graduate from the Army's intensive Ranger School.

(Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Maj. Lisa Jaster holds her daughter Victoria, 3, and her son Zachary, 7, following Ranger School graduation ceremonies on October 16, 2015, at Victory Pond in Columbus, Ga. Jaster, who is the third woman to earn the Ranger Tab, entered Ranger training with Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, who were the first two women to graduate from Ranger School during ceremonies on August 21.

(Robin Trimarchi/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer/TNS via Getty Images)

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)

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)

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)

The 96 graduating soldiers of the United States Army's Ranger School sit together 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)

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)

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)

Soldier climbs the Prusik Tower during the 2004 Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga., April 24, 2004

(Photo by Russ Bryant/WireImage)

US Army Rangers demonstrate their patrolling 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.

(STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)

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)

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)

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)

1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas gets a hug after 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)

1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas walks to 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 (C) look towards the families at Ranger school graduation at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia August 21, 2015. Griest and Haver are the first two women U.S. Army Rangers to complete the school but cannot serve due to their gender.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

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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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