The First Female Rangers

John Bazemore/ AP

What does it mean to be a hero? For some, the answer to this query could be pop icons like “Superman” or “Iron Man.” However, for many soldiers and young girls, the answer is the first female rangers. In 2015, two women made history by earning the US Army’s Ranger Tab. Ranger School is the most difficult course in the Army. The training is exhausting and intimidating, but Shaye Haver and Kristen Griest proved that nothing could stop them. In honor of Veteran’s Day, let’s take the time to celebrate their outstanding achievements. 

While speaking at the Army Women’s Foundation Summit on Capitol Hill, Haver and Griest described their paths to becoming rangers. Both women went to West Point, but had different experiences at the institution. Griest wanted to find a way to join the infantry whenever it opened up for women, and saw West Point as “the place to do that.” She waited for a year before being selected for the military police and joining an infantry group. She believed that she would be last in fitness tests because she was a woman, but that ended up being false “I was sure I was going to be dead last- all these infantry, Ranger-bound men at West Point. And [the shared scores from everybody’s PT tests] showed me that I wasn’t,” recounted Griest. She was frustrated that the only reason she couldn’t be a ranger was because of the policy, but a colonel convinced her to keep going anyway. Haver’s story is a bit different, as her original dream was to work in aviation. This changed when a battalion commander talked her into pursuing infantry. “I was shocked, I had never thought about it before,” said Haver, but she went through with training in spite of her worries. It turned out that she was doing just as well as the guys, and she received a slot at Ranger School.

Although Griest and Haver had completed Ranger School, there was still a ban on women serving in direct-combat units. This meant that they couldn’t complete all of their training, and had to serve in different ways, like teaching Ranger School, going to Jumpmaster School, and attending the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course while the Army worked on their “Leaders First” plan. Haver used this time to decide between aviation and infantry, while Griest waited for the infantry to open up for women. “Half-way through the course, the policy changed, and I was able to transfer over. So by the time I graduated, I was an infantry officer,” said Griest. This was a momentous occasion for female officers and American women as a whole. Eventually Haver decided to go infantry too, and attended Jump School. 

Unfortunately, Griest and Haver faced backlash. They received death threats from strangers, forcing the Army to be more quiet about the advances women were making in infantry for safety reasons. Haver tried to keep a low profile, while Griest tried to carry the weight of all of the women in infantry. Both of these approaches ended up being unhelpful, and the women learned that people are just going to have to get used to women in infantry. Some of Griest and Haver’s male counterparts were against them being in infantry at first, but this changed after the men saw what they could do. “As soon as you take an APFT, the conversation stops. If you beat everybody on the APFT, they cannot say anything to you,” said Griest. Haver had a similar response, saying that “When we’re willing and we do the same things with them every day, that’s what they want to see.” Regardless of whether or not people were accepting, Griest and Haver showed them that those against their work would just have to get over it.

As an Army brat, I dream of being as strong as the two trailblazers I wrote about in this article. Each year we’re seeing women get further, and we can only keep going from here. Whether you’re interested in the military or not, the story of Griest and Haver is captivating and inspiring. If you’d like to learn more about their journeys, take a look at the works I have cited below.

Works Cited: