"Rangers Lead The Way" is the motto of the U.S. Amy's elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and the first women to graduate from the military's notoriously grueling Ranger School told reporters Thursday that they hoped their achievement would open doors for other women, as their classmates and military top brass praised their achievement.
Army Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver will graduate Friday alongside 94 male soldiers who successfully completed the 62-day course. The pair was among 19 female soldiers who enrolled in Ranger School in April, in the first class to admit women since the school opened in 1972. Griest is a military police officer and Afghanistan veteran, while Haver is an Apache helicopter pilot.
"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," Griest told reporters.
Haver said it was "definitely awesome to be part of history."
The two women completed Ranger school on their third attempt, after having twice failed the Darby phase of the three-phase school, which involves 15 days of intensive squad training and operations in a field environment at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. After failing the Darby phase, the pair restarted as “Day-One Recycles,” which is a normal course procedure that's used when students struggle with one aspect of the course and excel at others, officials at Fort Benning told the Army Times.
"I was thinking really of future generations of women that I would like them to have that opportunity so I had that pressure on myself," Griest said, according to NPR. "And not letting people down that I knew believed in me, people that were supporting me."
On average, more than 37 percent of Ranger School graduates recycle at least one phase of the school. And some of the female pioneers' male classmates told reporters that concerns about the women being given easier treatment evaporated quickly.
Specialist Christopher Carvalho, a medic in the same Ranger school class, said his skepticism vanished after seeing the women leave some of their male classmates behind on a tough road march.
"Right then and there that's what validated me to say these women are here to stay," Carvalho said, according to the Associated Press.
Two years ago, under then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the U.S. armed 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, Reuters reported.
Major Gen. Austin S. Miller, commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, described the two female soldiers as "physically and mentally very capable," and said that they were held to the same standards as their male counterparts, CNN reported.
"We've shown that it's not exclusively a male domain here," he said.
Despite successfully proving themselves in Ranger School, Griest and Haver are still unable to join infantry, armor and special forces units -- including the 75th Ranger Regiment. That could change next year after the Pentagon makes its recommendations.