Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver are the first female graduates of the U.S. Army's Ranger School

By Susan Keating
Updated August 20, 2015 08:00 PM
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The Army’s first females to graduate Ranger School knew they faced skeptics going into the course, but proceeded undaunted to the end, the graduates told the press Thursday afternoon. The two women – Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver – appeared alongside fellow Ranger School graduates at Ft. Benning, Georgia, to talk about their experiences in the Army’s famed small units tactical course.

Both Griest and Haver said they understood that many people neither believed they could complete the course nor wanted them there.

“We had our guards up, but no chips on our shoulders,” said Haver, a military police officer from Orange, Connecticut. The women knew that they had to prove to their fellow students that they could be trusted. “Every time we accomplished something, it gave us a foothold as part of the team.”

The trust came in increments, when all students – both male and female – faced the misery of training, and grew to depend on one another for tasks or moral support.

Griest, an Apache helicopter pilot from Copperas Cove, Texas, was not convinced at first that she would be able to complete the Army’s infamously rigorous course. “My biggest fear was that I could not carry the weight,” Griest said.

A male teammate said he was pleased to learn that Griest could, when she helped lighten his load in training. At that point, he saw her not as a female but as a fellow Ranger student.

“It was a relief to hear we are accepted,” Griest said. “We try to be the best teammate we can.”

The school, which was established in 1952, has not previously been open to women. Griest and Haver are among a trial group of women who attended the first coed course, which began in April with 381 men and 19 women, but ended its run with only 94 men and two women.

Army officials say they are pleased with the results so far.

“How can you not have admiration for them for raising their hands and say I want to give this a shot,” said Major General Austin S. Miller, commanding general at Ft. Benning.

The entire class graduates on Friday morning. After the ceremony, all students will be released from the training unit to go on to their next assignments or home units.

As females still barred from Infantry, neither Haver nor Griest is eligible to apply to the Army’s prestigious 75th Ranger Regiment.

The women do, however, expect to maintain bonds with their fellow Ranger students.

“It’s pretty cool they accepted us,” Haver said. “We were winning hearts and minds as we went.”