In historic first, two women earn Ranger tabs. But will they be Rangers?

1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas, and Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Conn are the first two women in US history to complete the elite Ranger training.

Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer/AP
US Army Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Conn., speaks with reporters Thursday, at Fort Benning, Ga., where she is scheduled to graduate Friday from the Army’s elite Ranger School. Captain Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver are the first two women to complete the notoriously grueling Ranger course, which the Army opened to women this spring as it studies whether to open more combat jobs to female soldiers.

Making history, the first female soldiers will graduate from the US Army’s Ranger School on Friday.

1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas, and Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Conn., will receive the black-and-gold Ranger tab at a graduation ceremony, along with 94 male soldiers, at Fort Benning in Georgia. The event marks a major achievement for the female soldiers who have faced a steady stream of criticism for their attempt to finish this demanding course. But despite their success, the women will not be immediately permitted to join the 75th Ranger Regiment, a fact that highlights the gender restrictions still present in the military.

“Any women who pass this course won’t be allowed to serve as Rangers, since the ban on women in combat remains in effect until January 2016, when services must lift it or offer a compelling reason why they cannot,” the Monitor’s Anna Mulrine reported after the ranger school opened its door to women for the first time.

Nevertheless, officials have implied that the Ranger Regiment may be one of the special operations that will be opened to women in the near future. 

Since women were first permitted to join the course, many of the female soldiers who tried to complete the ranger school failed.

“Between January and April, 113 women tried to qualify for Ranger School, but only 20 did. Of the 19 women who started the course – one had to drop out before school began – eight are still in the running one week later. (By comparison, 197 of the 381 men were dropped the first week.)” the Monitor reported in April.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Captain Griest said she hopes her success shows that women "can deal with the same stresses and training that men can."

Janine Davidson, a defense policy analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Air Force cargo plane pilot, said the women’s achievement, together with the prospect of the Army fully integrating women into its ground combat force, is "policy catching up with reality.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter called the women Thursday to congratulate them for finishing the course. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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