There isn’t a more fitting motto for America’s elite Army Rangers regiment than, “Rangers lead the way!”
For the first time in military history, two women graduated from the excruciating 62-day Ranger School at Fort Benning on Friday.
Capt. Kristen Griest, 26, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, 25, were awarded the prestigious black and gold Ranger tab along with 94 of their male counterparts.
Ranger candidates arrive for training in the best shape of their lives and survive on a meal a day and just a few hours of sleep — all the while completing some of the toughest military training in the world.
“Ranger School is a gut check,” Jack Murphy, a Special Operations
75th Ranger Regiment veteran and managing editor of the military-focused publication SOFREP told Business Insider.
“… When you see another soldier wearing a Ranger tab on his or her uniform you know that you have both slogged it out through some extremely challenging training, which automatically builds a certain amount of trust in each other,” Murphy added.
Last year 4,057 students attempted the notoriously difficult Ranger School and only 1,609 earned the Ranger tab, according to the US Army.
‘They carried their own weight and then some’
On April 20, West Point graduates Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, and Haver, an Apache helicopter pilot from Texas, entered into the first gender-integrated Ranger School, alongside 380 men and 18 other female candidates.
“I never actually thought anything was going to be too difficult that it was worth leaving the course,” Griest said at a news conference. “I was thinking really of future generations of women that I would like them to have that opportunity so I had that pressure on myself,” she added.
Haver said she was motiviated by the solidarity she felt with her fellow Rangers. “The ability to look around to my peers and to see they were sucking just as bad as I was, kept me going,” Haver said at the news conference.
“They carried their own weight and then some,” wrote fellow Army Ranger Rudy Mac of the two women.
“If I remember correctly, Ranger Griest carried the M240 for her squad on day one of patrols and another female in her squad carried the radio as the RTO. The next day of patrols, they switched, with Ranger Griest humping the radio and the other female student carrying the M240 …. Physically, they were studs,” Mac added.
“I went to school with Shaye [Haver], and I knew she was a physical stud. But I was sceptical of whether or not she could handle it because this is my third time at a Ranger School,” fellow Ranger candidate 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski said at a news conference.
“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 anymore weight.’ Shaye [Haver] 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 scepticism,” Janowski said.
Welcome to Ranger School
The US Army divides the gruelling course into three phases: “Benning,” “mountain,” and “Florida.”
During the Benning phase of Ranger School, which takes place in Georgia, a soldier’s physical stamina, mental toughness, and tactical skills are evaluated and fine-tuned.
On the last day of the Benning phase, Ranger candidates conduct an arduous 12-mile march while carrying a 35-pound ruck sack — and without the luxury of drinking water. About 50% of students will pass this phase of the course, according to the Ranger School website.
During the appropriately named mountain phase, Ranger students are sent to the northern Georgia mountains to continue to learn how to sustain themselves in adverse conditions.
“The rugged terrain, severe weather, hunger, mental and physical fatigue, and the emotional stress that the student encounters afford him the opportunity to gauge his own capabilities and limitations as well as that of his peers,” according to the US Army.
The last phase consists of fast-paced field-training exercises in which candidates are evaluated based on their execution of high-stress raids, ambushes, and close-combat attacks.
All students must pass an intense physical fitness test that includes 49 push-ups, 59 sit-ups, a 5-mile run with a 40 minute time limit, six chin-ups, a timed swim test, a land-navigation test, several obstacle courses, three parachute jumps, four air assaults on helicopters, and 27 days of mock combat patrols.
Unlike their male Army Ranger counterparts, both women will not be able to apply to the 75th Ranger Regiment, the premier tier of Army special operations with its own unique set of physical requirements.
Although the Pentagon is scheduled to make a decision on which combat roles will be opened to women later this year, CNN reports.
In an interview with Foreign Policy, Sgt. Major Colin Boley, the operations sergeant major for the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, said he was initially opposed to accepting women into training but Haver and Griest “changed my mind.”
“I didn’t think that they would physically be able to bear the weight, and I thought they would quit or get hurt, and they have proved me wrong,” Boley told Foreign Policy.
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