(WTVM) - Two important, trailblazing women were both in the news in the past few weeks, but you might not know their names.
These two women didn’t know each other. One who was almost our first female astronaut has died at the age of 88. The other is 29 years old: the first woman to finish Ranger School the first time she attempted – with no do-overs.
These are two amazing women who deserve recognition for their amazing accomplishments.
First, there is Army Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons, who just became the first African-American female soldier to graduate from the grueling U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning.
But it’s not really not her race that makes her success noteworthy.
Sgt. Janina Simmons is famous because she’s the first woman ever to complete the Ranger course with no re-cycling, as the Army calls it, or repeating any phase of the course that tests a soldier’s ultimate endurance.
Three women completed the Ranger course before Sergeant Simmons. But they only succeeded, after re-doing some of the course.
Sgt. Simmons completed Ranger School the first time, with no do-overs.
That’s amazing, because the Army says 34% of any Ranger candidates, men and women, must re-do some parts of the course to pass, but not Sgt. Simmons.
She may not know it, but Sgt. Simmons has a lot in common with Geraldyn Cobb, a woman pilot who set speed and altitude records decades ago, and could have been our first female astronaut.
Pilot Jerrie Cobb, as she was known, was working in space medicine when she persuaded NASA to let her take the same tests as the male Mercury astronauts in the 1960’s.
She passed with flying colors and, in fact, scored in the top two percent of all astronaut candidates of either gender.
But NASA wouldn’t let her become an astronaut. They said it was because she was never a military test pilot.
But, of course, back then women weren’t allowed to fly for the military.
No special accommodations were ever made for Jerrie Cobb or Sgt. Simmons, just because they were women. Each had to pass the exact same tests as the ones given to their male counterparts.
Nothing was made easier for them as women. That’s what makes both of them such excellent role models.
Not because they were women, but because they each pursued a goal, figured out what they had to do to reach it and with determination, preparation and grit, they made it happen.
I hope future generations of men and women learn more about Sgt. Simmons and the late Jerrie Cobb.
They each showed us it doesn’t matter who you are, nor does your race or gender matter, either. It just matters how hard we’re willing to work when the opportunities come our way.
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