FORT BENNING, Ga. — The two women who will graduate Friday from the Army’s elite Ranger School — the first females to successfully complete the notoriously grueling program — are “tough soldiers” who proved their mettle beyond a doubt, one of the school’s top leaders said Thursday.
Cmd. Sgt. Major Curtis Arnold said a decade ago he would have doubted a woman could pass the rigorous course.
But First Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas, and Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut, not only finished the course they started in April — they had to start from scratch, having failed two previous attempts. Out of 19 women who began the program, Haver and Griest are the only two to finish so far.
“These two soldiers have absolutely earned the respect of every Ranger instructor,” Arnold told reporters. “They do not quit and they do not complain.”
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 percent.”
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 grueling 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 alongside 94 male soldiers who also earned the coveted black-and-gold Ranger tab to adorn their uniforms.
The course tests soldiers’ ability to overcome fatigue, hunger and stress during combat operations. The Army opened Ranger School to female soldiers for the first time 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 at West Point.
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,” Mike Griest said.
Haver followed in her father’s footsteps to become a pilot of attack helicopters. He 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.
While the graduating female soldiers have earned the coveted black-and-gold Ranger tab to wear on their uniforms, for now they’re still unable to join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment based at Fort Benning. The military’s toughest jobs — including positions in infantry, armor and special operations units such as the Ranger Regiment — remain closed to women.
Haver won admission to West Point as a high school senior in December 2007. At the time, she told her hometown newspaper that being raised in a military family fueled her desire to become an Army officer. She said her determination to join was strengthened after several soldiers who were her father’s friends died in Iraq.