First Female Soldiers Graduate Elite Army Ranger School: 'I Thought We Were Going to Be Dropped'

The women received the coveted Ranger Tab uniform patch, signaling their membership in the elite corps of soldiers

Photo: John Bazemore/AP

The first women to graduate from the Army’s rigorous Ranger School on Friday received the coveted Ranger Tab uniform patch, signaling their membership in the elite corps of soldiers.

In a ceremony at Fort Benning in Georgia, the two women – Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver – graduated alongside 94 male classmates who endured months of grueling physical and mental tasks while operating on minimal sleep and food.

Both women are happy to have completed the course, they told reporters in a press conference on Thursday.

And the two soldiers appeared to be proud at the Friday ceremony, where they and their classmates watched demonstrations of Rangers in motion – dropping from a helicopter into a pond, detonating explosives, and other actions – before being awarded their tabs.

“I thought we were going to be dropped after we failed Darby [obstacle course] the second time,” Griest said at the press conference. “We were offered a day one recycle.”

In retrospect, Griest said, “I’m glad I did it.”

Addressing a crowd of well-wishers in attendance at the ceremony, Major General Austin S. Miller, the Fort Benning commanding officer, noted that the graduating class began with 364 students, with 40 remaining and 56 recycled in from other classes.

All the graduates, he indicated, have shown the mettle required of the storied Rangers, whose predecessors took part in the D-Day landings and other momentous engagements.

The school opened in 1952 and 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.

The course is normally 62 days. Both Griest and Haver were recycled a number of times and completed the school in about four months.

Griest is an Apache helicopter pilot from Copperas Cove, Texas. Haver is a military police officer from Orange, Connecticut. Neither will be eligible to try out for the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment because the assignment is currently closed to females.

The women are now proud owners of an elite tab.

“They leave with a small piece of cloth attached to their shoulder,” Miller said.

Miller indicated that the insignia – the black and gold Ranger tab – speaks volumes despite its size.

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