SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – An Apache helicopter pilot from Texas and a military police officer from Connecticut are the first women to complete the Army’s grueling Ranger School, families of the soldiers confirmed Wednesday.
Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas, were scheduled to graduate Friday alongside 94 male soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In a joint statement Wednesday, the families of 26-year-old Griest and 25-year-old Haver said the women were “just like all the soldiers” in their graduating class: “happy, relieved, and ready for some good food and sleep.”
The two-month Ranger course tests soldiers’ ability to overcome fatigue, hunger and stress during combat operations. The Army opened Ranger School to female soldiers for the first time this year as part of the military’s push to open more combat jobs to women.
“It’s just completely amazing,” Chris Haver, Haver’s father, told The Associated Press. “I’m super proud. I know a lot of guys that have been through it and tell me how hard the course is. They tell me it’s the toughest, most mentally demanding course they’ve been too.”
The Army has not released the names of the two women.
Chris Haver confirmed to The AP that his daughter was one of the Ranger School graduates. Griest’s parents did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment. But a defense official confirmed that Griest, a military police officer who has served in Afghanistan, was the second woman to finish the course. The official was not authorized to disclose the name publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Both women are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Haver followed in her father’s footsteps when she became a pilot of attack helicopters. He said he also served as a career Army aviator who flew Apaches.
Haver’s father said she’s always been mentally tough and incredibly physically fit. He said she has run marathons and was a member of the triathlon team at West Point.
“She’s kind of built for this thing,” Chris Haver said.
While the graduating female soldiers have earned the coveted black-and-gold Ranger tab to wear on their uniforms, for now they’re still unable to join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment based at Fort Benning.
The military’s toughest jobs remain closed to female soldiers. That included positions in infantry, armor and special operations units such as the Ranger Regiment.
Griest was praised Wednesday by a Connecticut lawmaker who represents the soldier’s hometown. State Rep. Themis Klarides, Republican leader of the Connecticut House, said Griest’s accomplishment should help persuade the Pentagon to open the Ranger regiment and other special operations units to women.
“Kristen Griest is truly a groundbreaking woman for her commitment to excellence which proved that there really are no bounds for women and girls,” Klarides said in statement.
Haver won admission to West Point as a high school senior in December 2007. At the time, she told her hometown newspaper that being raised in a military family fueled her desire to become an Army officer. She said her determination to join was strengthened after several soldiers who were her father’s friends died in Iraq.
Haver also hinted in the 2007 interview with the Copperas Cove Herald that she was willing to test her limits – a trait that would have served her well in Ranger School.
“You have to be the one who’s on top of things, who wants to get stuff done,” Haver told the newspaper. “I may think that I’m OK right now, but I may not even know my potential yet because I haven’t been pushed like that.”
Griest’s family sent this statement to News 8 through the U.S. Army Press Office:
The families of CPT Kristen Griest and 1LT Shaye Haver wish to issue the following statement:
CPT Griest and LT Haver are just like all the soldiers in Class 8-15 – happy, relieved, and ready for some good food and sleep. Like everyone who will pin the tab on Friday, they are exceptional soldiers and strong teammates.The families are asking that you respect their privacy and the privacy of all the families and friends of Ranger Class 8-15.This is a monumental and joyous occasion for all 96 soldiers who will be pinning on the Ranger tab on Friday, August 21. The journey of Class 8-15 has been exciting and exhausting and just as they trained as a team, they wish to celebrate as a team.
___Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.