Female warriors make history as first Army Ranger grads

At an Army Ranger graduation unlike any other in history, there were two women among 94 men who survived the grueling nine-week course. Despite the praise, Capt. Kristen Griest and First Lt. Shaye Haver are not eligible to join the Ranger regiment, but that could change in the next few months. Margaret Warner reports.

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    One of the most storied institutions in the U.S. military marked a milestone today. For the first time, two women graduated from the Army's elite Ranger School. It's a step toward increasing women's role in war fighting.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has our story.

  • MAN:

    Rangers, welcome to the club.


    It was an Army Ranger graduation unlike any other: two women joining 94 men.

    Major General Scott Miller hailed the survivors of the grueling nine-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia.


    It is all of you who know the challenge of persevering through privation, where most humans would just quit. You're leaving Victory Pond here today with a small piece of cloth on your shoulders. But, more importantly, you carry the title of Ranger from here on out.


    This was the first year the Army has allowed women to try to qualify or the elite Ranger force. Nineteen began the course, along with about 345 men.

    The two women who ultimately qualified for the black and gold Ranger tab, Captain Kristen Griest, a 26-year-old military police officer, who spoke about the challenges yesterday.

  • CAPT. KRISTEN GRIEST, Ranger School Graduate:

    Knowing that you have to uphold that legacy every day, you can't really have an off day. You can't be tired. You need to go the extra mile.


    And 25-year-old 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver, an Apache helicopter pilot.

    1ST LT. SHAYE HAVER, Ranger School Graduate: At each event that we succeeded in, we kind of were winning hearts and minds as we went.


    At yesterday's briefing, they described the exhausting physical and mental trials of the course.

    1ST LT. SHAYE HAVER: The mental side of the issue is you come is going to be the most challenging thing you will ever face. And exceeding that, my advice is to, once you get to that point, keep going and to realize that your mind can take a whole lot more than your body can.


    When your squad gets 2,000 rounds of ammo or you realize that you are the weapons squad and you have got two machine guns to carry, I mean, you look around and there's only 10 of you or so, and everybody, all of a sudden, the men really don't care at all that you are female. You're carrying some of that. And you feel the exact same way. You are going to help share the load as much as anybody.


    Some of their male counterparts acknowledged they had their doubts about the women at the outset.

    2ND LT. MICHAEL JANOWSKI, Ranger School Graduate: I was skeptical if they could handle it physically. Then we got to mountains, and there was one night we were doing a long walk. I was the 320 gunner, so I had a lot of weight on me. And I was struggling.

    And then I stopped and I asked at a halfway point, hey, can anyone help take some of this weight? I got a lot of deer-in-the-headlight looks and a lot of people were like, I can't take any more weight. Shaye was the only one to volunteer to take that weight. She took that weight off of me. She carried it the last half of that ruck, literally saved me. I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now if it wasn't for Shaye.


    For all the praise, Captain Griest and Lieutenant Haver are not eligible to actually join the Ranger regiment. That still remains closed to women. They will most likely be assigned support roles instead.

    But that could change in the next few months, as the Pentagon finishes reviewing its policy on integrating women into combat units.

    Defense Secretary Ashton Carter indicated his openness to that yesterday at the Pentagon.

    ASHTON CARTER, Secretary of Defense: The department's policy is that all ground combat positions will be open to women, unless rigorous analysis of factual data shows that the positions must remain closed.

    On October 1, the services will provide a report to the chairman requesting any exception to this policy. And I will review the services' recommendation and make a final determination on that issue by the end of this year.


    Even if women eventually do gain access to most combat roles, the Pentagon may allow service leaders to request exemptions.

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