SPECIAL REPORT: A look at the evolving role of women in the military

SPECIAL REPORT: A look at the evolving role of women in the military

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - From time away from family, to high physical demands - the life of a soldier can be grueling for those serving our country daily.

As Saturday marks National Armed Forces Day, we take a look at a highly talked about and sometimes controversial aspect of the military community.

While the red and blue coats marched on, women of the Revolutionary War were turning the dueling colors into a symbol of freedom and victory.

Jobs, done often on the sidelines proved from an early start in American history that women were crucial to success on the battlefield.

During the Civil War, women often traveled with their soldiers, uprooting their families, and setting up camp after camp. They cooked, cleaned, and tended to the injured.

Fast forward to more modern warfare, and women are still often found bed side saving lives, and in factories, picking up the slack on the homefront. If only Rosie the Riveter knew how true her words "We can do it," would be.

In 2015 the U.S. Army's grueling Ranger School stood true to their motto "Rangers Lead the Way" and welcomed for the first time a group of women.

Known for its physically demanding nature, the integration didn't come without backlash. Still, leaders stood firm in their stance that no standards were changed and no special accommodations were made.

Of the 19 women to start the class amongst 381 men, three graduated. First, Captain Kristen Griest, and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver.

"Hey can anyone help take some of this weight? I got a lot of deer in headlight looks , a lot of people were like I can't take anymore weight. Shay was the only one who volunteered to take that weight. She took the weight off me, she carried it the last half of the ruck. Literally saved me, I probably wouldn't be sitting here if it wasn't for Shay," said a male Ranger School graduate who worked along side Haver. 

Then Major Lisa Jaster, who endured multiple demanding recycles took home her tab.

"I keep a picture in my pocket where my daughter and son are wearing super hero t-shirts and I'd written across the front of the picture I need to be their hero and all I had to do was look at that picture and remember that I didn't come to ranger school just because I wanted to get a piece of cloth on my shoulder," said Jaster. 

Still, as these women made history with their demonstration of strength and will, being a Ranger met an expected wall at graduation. Serving in a Ranger Battalion wasn't a possibility at that point, as direct action combat roles were open to males only. Then as 2016 rolled in, the Department of Defense lifted all gender-based restrictions.

Four months later, Griest made history again by becoming the first female infantry officer.

"You are really taking on a lot of responsibility because there is a lot of expectations from someone who wears the ranger tab. I think knowing you have to uphold that legacy everyday, you can't really have an off day," said Cpt Griest.

Fort Benning is now preparing for more women expected to arrive in the upcoming year, as females continue to show they have and always will be willing and able to serve.

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