The first two women to graduate from the U.S. Army's Ranger School shared their experiences from training during a press panel Thursday in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, along with some male graduates of the grueling program, discussed their struggles and accomplishments. But it fell to their male colleagues to explain how Griest and Haver, both graduates of West Point, overcame doubters.
“I went to school with Shaye and I knew she was a physical stud. But I was skeptical of whether or not she could handle it because this is my third time at a Ranger School,” a fellow graduate, 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski, said. “I saw what Ranger School was like before entering this class and I was skeptical if they could handle it physically.
“Then we got to the mountains, and there was one night we were doing a long walk,” Janowski continued. “I was the 320 gunner [a grenade launcher], so I had a lot of weight on me and I was struggling. And I stopped and I asked at halfway point, ‘Hey, can anyone help take some of this weight?’ I got a lot of deer-in-the headlight looks, you know. A lot of people were like, ‘I can’t take any more weight.’ Shaye was the only one to volunteer to take that weight. She took the weight off me and she carried it the last half of that road. Literally saved me. I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now if it wasn’t for Shaye. So from that point, no more skepticism."
Other men shared similar stories about Griest. Both women scored among the highest in group evaluations, according to their fellow graduates on the panel.
Griest said she hopes Haver's and her accomplishments are considered when military officials decide whether to open more courses for women.
“The decisions to open up further combat units, of course, will be up to senior leaders in the military,” Griest said. “But 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.”
The women answered a resounding no when asked whether they thought the standards for women should be lowered in some training courses.
“I think [keeping the standards] is extremely important, if they do go forward with opening further job opportunities and schools to women,” Griest said. “No woman that I know wanted to go to Ranger School if they changed standards, because then it degrades what the tab means.”
The two women started the course with 381 men and 17 other women. Only the two women and 94 men met all the requirements for graduation.
It isn’t clear what the women will do next. Unlike their fellow male graduates, the women cannot apply to join the 75th Ranger Regiment -- “an elite special operations force,” as CNN reports.
CORRECTION: This article previously misstated the name of the decoration that graduates of the Ranger School receive. It's a Ranger tab, not tag.