Two women are expected to officially make their mark in history when they graduate from the Army’s Ranger School on Friday after passing the mentally and physically demanding two-month program.
Initially, the Army was hesitant to release the names of the two females out of fear of retaliation from “die-hards who cannot stomach the idea of females wearing the coveted Ranger Tab,” CBS News reports.
The female graduates were eventually identified as 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, 25, of Texas and Capt. Kristen Griest, 26, from Connecticut. Both are West Point graduates. They, along with some of their fellow male graduates, described their experience during a press conference on Thursday.
Some of the men admitted that, before the training, they were skeptical about whether the women would be able to handle the physical demands of Ranger School, adding that they had a change of heart as Haver and Griest left behind some of their fellow males.
Haver and Griest were the only two females to finish the training out of 19 women who began the program.
“It’s pretty cool that they have accepted us,” Lt. Haver told reporters, referring to her fellow soldiers and Rangers, adding, “We ourselves came to Ranger School skeptical with our guards up ready just in case [of] the haters and the naysayers… but we didn’t come with a chip on our shoulder like we had anything to prove. I think that we came the best prepared that we possibly could be.”
“I do hope that with our performance in Ranger School we’ve been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military — that we can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men and that we can deal with the same stresses and training that men can,” added Capt. Griest.
The two women earned the right to wear the elite Ranger Tab on their uniform after completing the rigorous training for the special operations unit along with 94 men. All 96 soldiers will graduate on Friday during a ceremony at Fort Benning, GA.
It is “a monumental and joyous occasion for all 96 soldiers who will be pinning on the Ranger tab” on Friday, said the women’s families in a statement. The women are exhausted, but they are “happy, relieved, and ready for some good food and sleep,” the statement said.
“Congratulations to all of our new Rangers. Each Ranger School graduate has shown the physical and mental toughness to successfully lead organizations at any level. This course has proven that every Soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential,” added Army Secretary John M. McHugh. “We owe Soldiers the opportunity to serve successfully in any position where they are qualified and capable, and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best Soldiers to meet our nation’s needs.”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also praised the women for their accomplishment during a Pentagon press conference on Thursday, calling them trailblazers and telling reporters that he personally congratulated them.
“Like every Ranger serving today, they’ll help lead the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” said Carter referring to the recent graduates.
Although they completed the prestigious Ranger School, the two females will not be able to join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment because it is not open to women.
That barrier may fall in the coming months. Carter said he will review policy that prohibits females from fighting with the 75th Ranger Regiment.