One of the first women to graduate from the 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 of Orange, Connecticut 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 First Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas, will graduate at Fort Benning, Georgia, along with 94 men on Friday. 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 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 Friday at Fort Benning alongside 94 male soldiers 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.
"This has been something she's wanted to do for a long, long time," Griest's older brother, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mike Griest, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "We're all very, very proud of her. It's a tremendous achievement not only for her personally but for the Army and women in the military in general."
Griest grew up loving to camp in the wilderness and test her endurance, making her a natural to take on Ranger School, her brother said. He noted she chose to become a military police officer because she felt it was the closest she could get to an Army combat job.
"If she had been allowed to go infantry out of college, she would have done that," Mike Griest said.
Haver followed in her father's footsteps to become a pilot of attack helicopters. He also served as a career Army aviator who flew Apaches, and said his daughter has always been mentally tough and incredibly physically fit. He said she has run marathons and competed in triathlons for West Point.
"She's kind of built for this thing," Chris Haver said.