1st women to pass U.S. Army Ranger School gain foothold for followers
Trailblazing soldiers have 'earned the respect of every ranger instructor,' says school leader
The two women who will graduate Friday from the U.S. army's elite ranger school — the first females to successfully complete the notoriously gruelling program — are "tough soldiers" who proved their mettle beyond a doubt, one of the school's top leaders says.
Cmdr. Sgt. Major Curtis Arnold said a decade ago he would have doubted a woman could pass the rigorous course.
Griest said completing the elite, two-month program shows that women "can deal with the same stresses and training that men can."
She also had a message for any women looking to follow in her footsteps: "Keep [your] goal in mind, never lose sight of it and remind yourself why you're there. I never seriously considered [quitting]."
"These two soldiers have absolutely earned the respect of every ranger instructor," Arnold told reporters. "They do not quit and they do not complain."
Several of the male rangers admitted to being initially skeptical that the women could perform at the same level, but being later convinced that gender was not a factor.
"When you're out in the field and you're tired and miserable, you don't care about the gender," said fellow ranger Anthony Rombold.
Haver said graduating is "probably one of the highlights of my life."
'Just like all the soldiers'
Arnold said he suspects Haver and Griest had extra motivation to graduate "because you know everyone is watching. And truthfully there are probably a few folks who want you to fail. So you've got to put out 110 per cent."
The families of the women gave a more modest assessment, saying in a joint statement that Haver and Griest, are "just like all the soldiers" graduating this week from the gruelling two-month ranger course.
Griest, 26, and Haver, 25, are "happy, relieved, and ready for some good food and sleep" before they line up Friday at Fort Benning near Columbus, Ga., alongside 94 male soldiers who also earned the coveted black-and-gold ranger tab to adorn their uniforms.
It's a tremendous achievement not only for her personally but for the army and women in the military in general.- Mike Griest , Army Chief Warrant Officer 2
The course tests the ability to overcome fatigue, hunger and stress during combat operations. The army opened ranger school to female soldiers this year as part of the military's push to open more combat jobs to women.
"This has been something she's wanted to do for a long, long time," Griest's older brother, army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mike Griest, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "We're all very, very proud of her. It's a tremendous achievement not only for her personally, but for the army and women in the military in general."
Both women are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
Griest grew up loving to camp in the wilderness and test her endurance, making her a natural to take on ranger school, her brother said. He noted she chose to become a military police officer because she felt it was the closest she could get to an army combat job.
"If she had been allowed to go infantry out of college, she would have done that," he said.
Following in her father's footsteps
Haver followed in her father's footsteps to become a pilot of attack helicopters. Her father also served as a career army aviator who flew Apaches, and said his daughter has always been mentally tough and incredibly physically fit. He said she has run marathons and competed in triathlons for West Point.
"She's kind of built for this thing," Chris Haver said.
Despite finishing the training, the two women are still unable to join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment based at Fort Benning. The military's toughest jobs — including positions in infantry, armour and special operations units such as the Ranger Regiment — remain closed to women.