First women army graduates in US

  • 22/08/2015
Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver at Ranger School graduation (Reuters)
Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver at Ranger School graduation (Reuters)

They hiked for miles across mountains and jungle with 90 pound packs, jumped out of helicopters and worked 20 hour days on the US Army's most gruelling training course.

On Friday, the first women to pass Ranger School graduated, to the delight of female peers hoping to see more frontline roles open up for women combat leaders.

Lieutenant Shaye Haver and Captain Kristen Griest faced all the same combat, survival and stamina challenges as the 94 men also pinning the Ranger Tab on their fatigues.

But they also faced the added pressure of keen media attention, and of becoming symbols in the US debate over how far to open up combat posts to female troops.

"I feel tremendous pride," said retired captain Sue Fulton, herself a trailblazer as one of the first women to graduate West Point military academy in 1980.

Fulton was part of a 70-strong delegation of West Point graduates who came to Fort Benning, Georgia to congratulate Lieutenant Shaye Haver, 25, and Captain Kristen Griest, 26.

Haver and Griest will now wear the coveted Ranger tab on their uniforms, but will not join the 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite light infantry unit that still does not accept women.

Other frontline units are opening up, however, and more are expected to do so. Meanwhile, passing the Ranger School combat leadership test is seen as a key step in a successful officer's career.

"Every senior leader in the US Army wears the tab," said another 1980 West Point grad, Lillian Pfluke, told AFP.

She argued that by opening Ranger School to women, the US Army had shown they were "fully accepted in the cultural core of the organisation."

Friday's ceremony was also attended b the families of the graduates and by the new US army chief of staff, General Mark Milley.