Meet the Women Who Survived Army’s Ranger School (Navy SEALs Are Next)

Soldiers on the Ranger Course at Camp Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Aug. 6, 2015

U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Yvette Zabala-Garriga

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Soldiers on the Ranger Course at Camp Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Aug. 6, 2015

Shortly after two women earned their Army Ranger tabs, the Navy's top admiral said SEALs will give women their shot.

Correction: This report originally swapped the ranks of Capt. Griest and 1st. Lt. Haver.

Their names are Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st. Lt. Shaye Haver. They are the first women to ever have completed the U.S. Army Ranger School and on Friday they will affix the “Ranger tab” patch to their shoulders. According to the men who guided them through it, they are the real deal.

Those two women are legit and would have had outstanding careers in the military with or without a tab,” said Sgt. Maj. Colin Boley, the operations sergeant major for the Airborne and Ranger training brigade.

Soon, they may have company as women among the military elite. The Navy will open its famed training school for SEALs to women, said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations. After a “very objective analysis” of training standards, Greenert said, the special warfare community found they were appropriate for men or women. 

“Why shouldn’t anybody that can meet these be accepted? And the answer is: there is no reason,” Greenert said, in an interview with Military Times. “So we’re on a track to say, ‘Hey look, here are the standards, anybody who can meet them, the gender non-specific, then you can become a SEAL.’”

Soldiers, sailors, veterans, and citizens forever will look at Griest and Haver in a different way. But in the beginning, “They didn’t look any different really than anyone else,” said Sgt. First Class Tiffany Myrick, a military police noncommissioned officer who served as an observer and advisor at Ranger Schools.

“I knew it just by their performance during the smoke sessions how they stood out,” Myrick told Defense One this week. A lot of people were kind of hurting and they still looked strong – smoke session is like exercises and corrective training. That is what made them stand out was their performance during all the physical events.”

On Friday, they will graduate with their class, but still are far from combat. There is an entirely different set of qualifications to gain entry into the 75th Ranger Regiment, the active unit dispatched on the most sensitive and specialized missions.

But they might get their shot. The Defense Department is looking at every single job with an eye toward opening it to women, unless the service chiefs and secretaries request an exemption from Defense Secretary Ash Carter. That includes Navy SEALs and the Ranger Regiment.

Defense Department officials so far have approved 111,000 jobs for women since beginning their review in January, with 220,000 to go. Each job approval requires 30-day Congressional notice, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Tuesday. The final approvals and exceptions to the rule will be announced “on or about” Jan. 1, 2016.

For now, Haver and Griest can enjoy what they have earned: respect.

“Haver was the most intense; she was the most vocal, she wasn’t afraid to speak up,” said Myrick. A resident of Copperas Cove, Texas, she is a pilot of Apache helicopters, according to the Washington Post, which published their names Tuesday evening. The Army previously had said it would release their names to the public on Thursday, but several reporters who spent time on the Ranger School course already had learned much about them.  

Myrick, a military police officer, has especially high hopes for fellow MP Griest, who hails from Orange, Connecticut. “Griest was quiet, and looking at her, you wouldn’t think she could perform as well as she did…Quiet but very strong and very humble,” said Myrick.

A West Point instructor who met Griest through another cadet, but declined to be identified for this article, told Defense One this week, “She had talked about [going infantry] from when she was a cadet. It was common knowledge to people that knew her that that is what she wanted to do.”

Myrick had a different perception of Haver. “Haver was more of my personality — when she wanted to get something done, she was like, ‘Get over and let’s get it done.’”

“When I watched Haver patrol when she was yelling at the guys to get in position and get moving. I just kind of chuckled to myself because that is something I would do or say, so I laughed to myself at that. She was well respected and that stood out a lot and that also reflected her leadership style as well.”

“Greist was more like, she was in command, but she spoke in a different manner. It just shows that you can have different leadership styles and still be successful.”

“Greist was more quiet. But she was great at planning. Her op orders that she gave were very thorough. She didn’t leave out anything. That stood out to me, and during her patrol she looked strong. She was a good team player when she was a squad leader, so I thought that stood out as well.”

“They were pretty impressive. They didn’t stand out over the male students they just performed well. They were definitely respected.”

Indeed, when Griest is tabbed on Friday, she’ll get more than respect. She’s expected to be promoted to Army captain.

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