First woman enters infantry as Army moves women into combat roles

Capt. Kristen Griest is becoming the Army's first female infantry officer, a significant first as the armed forces move toward filling combat roles with servicewomen. 

Tami Chappell/Reuters
Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Conn., (l.) and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Tex., wave to family and friends as they wait to receive their ranger tabs at Ranger school graduation. Captain Griest will now become the Army's first female infantry officer.

An American woman has now joined the US Army infantry in one of the first moves toward integrating servicewomen into all military combat roles. 

Capt. Kristen Griest, a West Point graduate and one of the first women to complete the Army's elite Ranger School training, received permission on Monday to become an infantry officer. Her transfer is possible because of a 2013 directive from the Pentagon to open all military jobs to qualified women beginning in 2016.

Captain Griest's move represents the Army's "leader-first" approach to integrating its forces by gender. The Army wants to move female officers into units recently opened to women before filling in the lower ranks, Michelle Tan reported for the Army Times. 

"An incremental and phased approach by leaders and soldiers who understand and enforce gender-neutral standards will ensure successful integration of women across the breadth and depth of our formations," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in a statement previously.

Although Griest is the first, other women are preparing to follow: 22 Army cadets are approved to enter the infantry and armor branches. Female lieutenants also have a special eight-week window to apply for a transfer into branches where women were previously barred.

"I was thinking of future generations of women – that I would like them to have that opportunity, so I had that pressure on myself," Griest during a panel discussion after her Ranger School graduation.

The Army's newest infantry officer was ambitious from the beginning of her military training, as she was inspired by a mentor to shoot for Ranger School while still at West Point, Chuck Williams reported for the Charlotte Observer. Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate from Ranger School in August, and a third soldier, Maj. Lisa Jaster, has since graduated.

"I am proud of Capt. Kristen Griest, not because she is the first, but because she is following her heart," Major Jaster said, according to the Observer. "She is a leader of soldiers who puts her whole self into her job and will continue to make sacrifices in order to make our Army stronger."

Others who know Griest agree that her motivation will make her an asset in her new Army role.

"Just as [Griest] shunned the media after Ranger School, she will just want to get to work, which is why she is the kind of officer we need in the infantry: extremely tough, smart, a quiet professional and a team player," Sue Fulton, one of the first female graduates of West Point, told the Observer. "She is the first of a select group of women who will step up to the challenges of Army Infantry, and make it stronger through their talent and selfless service.”

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