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Defense Secretary Ash Carter: "Clearly, these two soldiers are trailblazers"

Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver graduate alongside 94 men

They are the first women to graduate from the Army's Ranger School

CNN —  

Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver made history Friday as the first two women to graduate from the U.S. Army’s elite Ranger School.

The two received their tabs as part of Ranger Class 08-15 at Fort Benning, Georgia, marking a historic moment in the integration of women in the U.S. military, after completing weeks of grueling physical training across woods, mountains and swamplands.

At an outdoor ceremony, Maj. Gen. Austin S. Miller, commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, addressed critics who questioned whether standards of the rigorous course were lowered for the two female Rangers. They met every requirement the men did, he said.

“Standards are still the same … a 5-mile run is still a 5-mile run,” he said. “Standards do not change. A 12-mile march is still a 12-mile march.”

Miller added, “When I shake your hand, I know there’s something behind that handshake. Rangers lead the way.”

Griest, of Connecticut, is an Airborne-qualified military police officer. Haver, a Texas resident, is an Apache helicopter pilot.

“Clearly, these two soldiers are trailblazers,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters Thursday.

The women have been hailed as pioneers for passing the course in the first year the Army has opened it to women on a trial basis.

“We felt like we were contributing as much as the men, and we felt that they felt that way, too,” Griest said.

The pressure of paving the way for future generations was not lost on her, she said.

“For me, the biggest accomplishment was that it was a goal I had for so long,” Griest said. “It was always just about trying to get the best training that the Army can offer us.”

Haver said it was “definitely awesome to be part of history.”

The women in her class “came to Ranger School as skeptics, with our guards up, just in case of the haters and naysayers, but we didn’t come with a chip on our shoulder with anything to prove,” Haver said.

She added, “I think the battles that we won were individual. … We were kind of winning hearts and minds as we went.”

Some of their male classmates said the two women at various points in the course were the only ones to volunteer to take on the heavy weight of their male counterparts.

“You’re way too tired and way too hungry to really honestly care,” one soldier said of the female classmates. “At the end of the day, everyone was a Ranger.”