FORT BENNING: One of the first women to graduate from the US Army's notoriously grueling Ranger School says she hopes her success will go toward proving that women in the military are capable of doing what men do.
Capt Kristen Griest said her successful completion of the elite, two-month program show that women "can deal with the same stresses and training that men can."
Griest and 1st Lt Shaye Haver will graduate at Fort Benning, Georgia, along with 94 men today. Out of 19 women who began the program, Haver and Griest are the only two to finish so far.
Completing the course lets the two women wear the coveted Ranger black-and-gold tab. But 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 and Griest -- both graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point -- not only finished the course they started in April. They also both had to start from scratch, having failed two previous attempts.
"These two soldiers have absolutely earned the respect of every Ranger instructor," Cmd Sgt Major Curtis 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 today with their malecolleagues 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.