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Friday 9 December 2016

First female soldiers graduate from West Point Ranger School

US Rangers
US Rangers

The first female soldiers to complete the US Army's rigorous Ranger School graduated yesterday, capping their his- tory-making week and putting a spotlight on the debate over women in combat.

At a ceremony at Fort Benning in Georgia, First Lt Shaye Haver and Capt Kristen Griest graduated alongside 94 male soldiers.

The women drew national attention for finishing the nine-week programme designed to test young soldiers' leadership abilities as the Pentagon approaches decisions on opening all combat positions to women who meet military standards.

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 eligible for the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, although officials say it is among special operations units likely to be opened to women eventually.

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 US Military Academy at West Point.

Of 19 women who began the Ranger course, Haver and Griest are the only two to finish so far.

Addressing the graduates, Maj Gen Scott Miller said no one should doubt that all 96 graduates met Ranger standards, regardless of their sex, and he congratulated them on proving their mettle.

The army opened Ranger School to women for the first time this year as service leaders weighed opening more combat jobs to females. How far the military is willing to go towards ending restrictions on women will be evident soon.

Gen Mark Milley, the army's new chief of staff who flew to Benning to attend the graduation ceremony, said he is proud of all the Rangers who completed the course and appreciates the importance of the pioneering performance of Haver and Griest.

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