First female graduates of Ranger School earn elite tab

Army Rangers Women
Fielding questions during a press conference Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, at Fort Benning Ga., are, from left, 2nd Lt. Erickson D. Krogh, 2nd Lt. Anthony Rombold, 2nd Lt. Michael V. Janowski, 1st Lt. Shaye L. Haver, Staff Sgt. Michael C. Calderon, Spec. Christopher J. Carvalho, Capt. Kristen M. Griest and 2nd Lt. Zachary Hagner. Griest and 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. (Mike Haskey /Ledger-Enquirer via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The first female soldiers to complete the Army’s rigorous Ranger School are graduating Friday, putting a spotlight on the debate over opening all combat roles to women.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Thursday called First Lt. Shaye Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest, who will graduate along with 94 male soldiers, to congratulate them for finishing the nine-week training program.

Their success casts new attention on the obstacles that remain to women who aspire to join all-male combat units. Although Haver and Griest are now Ranger-qualified, no women are yet eligible for the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, although officials say it is among special operations units likely to eventually be opened to women.

Griest, 26, is a military police officer and has served one tour in Afghanistan. Haver, 25, is a pilot of Apache helicopters. Both are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Of 19 women who began the Ranger course, Haver and Griest are the only two to finish so far.

The Army opened Ranger School to female soldiers for the first time this year as service leaders weighed opening more combat jobs to women.

Griest told reporters Thursday she hopes her success shows that women “can deal with the same stresses and training that men can.”

Rangers call themselves “masters of special light infantry operations” such as seizing key terrain and infiltrating hostile territory by land, sea or air.

Most of those who Ranger School, which began during the Korean War as the “Ranger Training Command,” fail to graduate. Between 2010 and 2014, 58 percent of candidates washed out – most of those within the first four days.

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