FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) – The two women Ranger-students who passed the strenuous leadership course to become Army Ranger-certified spoke for the first time on Thursday.
Capt. Kristen Griest, of Orange, CT, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, of Copperas Cove, TX were among the group of 96 Ranger-qualified soldiers who spoke at a media roundtable on Thursday.
"I would say that it's definitely awesome to be part of the history of Ranger school in general, also graduating with these guys next to me and the 90 plus other Ranger students that will graduate tomorrow. That will probably be one of the highlights of my life. To the other females who plan on coming I hope that they come with a strong mind, that's what it takes to get through here. Just like everyone sitting next to me here had to do to make it to tomorrow," Haver said.
Their graduation, along with the 94 men that have passed the course as Ranger class 8-15, will have their graduation ceremony at Victory Pond on Fort Benning on Friday.
"Yeah, I pretty much feel the same way, happy to be done with the course. I just came here to try and be a better leader and improve myself and I feel like I did that, and for other women who have that same goal in mind, just keep that goal in mind and just don't lose sight of it and just keep reminding yourself why you are there and they'll be find.," Griest said.
Nineteen women and 381 men started Ranger Class 08-15 on April 20.
"I do hope that with our performance in Ranger school we've been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military. That we can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men," Griest said. "And that we can deal with the same stresses and training that the men can."
Captain Kristen Griest and 1st Lieutenant. Shaye Haver decided long ago to become ranger qualified for many reasons.
"I just came here to try to be a better leader and try to improve myself and I feel like I did that and for other women who have that same goal in mind, just keep in it mind and don't lose sight of it," said Griest.
"To get the experience of the elite leadership school that the army has to provide. To give me the opportunity to lead my soldiers the best I can," said Haver.
The women and men endured several phases, including training in woods, mountains., and swamplands. The army kept the same standards and challenges for both genders.
"We are aware of what's going on, but at the end of the day, everyone was a ranger as long as the team pulled through together to accomplish the mission," said one male ranger.
Both the men and the women Ranger students who took part in the media roundtable on Thursday talked about the frenzy around the first integrated cycle and their experiences.
"I was skeptical of whether or not she could handle it because this was my 3rd time in Army Ranger school so I saw what Ranger school was like. I was skeptical if they could handle it physically. There was one night we were doing a long walk I had a lot of weight on me and I was struggling. I stopped and I asked can anyone help take some of this weight. I got a lot of deer in the headlight looks. A lot of people were like I can't take anymore weight," 2nd Lt. Officer Mike Jenowski said. "Shaye was the only one to volunteer to take that weight. She took the weight off of me and carried it for the last half of that ruck. Literally saved me. I probably wouldn't be sitting here if it wasn't for Shaye. From that point,. no more skepticism. I knew she was going to make it from that point."
The Ranger school's current class started out in April with 400 participants. By the end of the 62-day course, 94 men and two women met all the requirements.
Unlike the male graduates, Haver and Griest can't apply to join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. The Pentagon is not expected to make a final decision about the roles of women in combat until later this year.
"I speak for the entire West Point Garrison and Community when I say that we're very proud of Capt. Griest and Lt. Haver on graduating from Ranger School," Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen said in a Facebook post. "Throughout our history, West Point graduates have been trailblazers throughout our Army and beyond, and our female graduates are certainly no exception. Cap. Griest and Lt. Haver epitomize the resiliency and mental toughness – attributes that we develop at West Point – required to succeed as U.S. Army Rangers."
Department of Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened his Pentagon press conference congratulated all of the Ranger school graduates and addressed the fact that women can't join the military's combat forces.
"As many of you in this room have reported, two remarkable women are among the 96 remarkable people who graduated. They're the first two women to pass through this elite proving ground for military leadership," Carter said. "Clearly, these two soldiers are trail blazers. And after all, that's what it means to be a Ranger. Rangers lead the way. On October 1, the services will provide a report to the chairman requesting any exception to this policy. And I'll review the services recommendation and make a final determination on that issue by the end of this year."
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