SAVANNAH — An Apache helicopter pilot from Texas and a military police officer from Connecticut are the first women to complete the Army's grueling Ranger School, families of the soldiers confirmed Wednesday.
Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas, were scheduled to graduate Friday alongside 94 male soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In a joint statement Wednesday, the families of 26-year-old Griest and 25-year-old Haver said the women were "just like all the soldiers" in their graduating class: "happy, relieved, and ready for some good food and sleep."
The two-month Ranger course tests soldiers' ability to overcome fatigue, hunger and stress during combat operations. The Army opened Ranger School to female soldiers for the first time this year as part of the military's push to open more combat jobs to women.
"This has been something she's wanted to do for a long, long time," Griest's older brother, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mike Griest, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "We're all very, very proud of her. It's a tremendous achievement not only for her personally but for the Army and women in the military in general."
Haver's father, Chris Haver, also said he was "super proud."
"It's just completely amazing," Chris Haver said. "...I know a lot of guys that have been through it and tell me how hard the course is. They tell me it's the toughest, most mentally demanding course they've been to."
Both women are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Griest grew up loving to camp in the wilderness and test her endurance, making her a natural to take on Ranger School, her brother said. He noted she chose to become a military police officer because she felt it was the closest she could get to an Army combat job.
"If she had been allowed to go infantry out of college, she would have done that," Mike Griest said.
Haver followed in her father's footsteps when she became a pilot of attack helicopters. He said he also served as a career Army aviator who flew Apaches.
Haver's father said she's always been mentally tough and incredibly physically fit. He said she has run marathons and was a member of the triathlon team at West Point.
"She's kind of built for this thing," Chris Haver said.
While the graduating female soldiers have earned the coveted black-and-gold Ranger tab to wear on their uniforms, for now they're still unable to join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment based at Fort Benning.
The military's toughest jobs remain closed to female soldiers. That included positions in infantry, armor and special operations units such as the Ranger Regiment.
Haver won admission to West Point as a high school senior in December 2007. At the time, she told her hometown newspaper that being raised in a military family fueled her desire to become an Army officer. She said her determination to join was strengthened after several soldiers who were her father's friends died in Iraq.
Haver also hinted in the 2007 interview with the Copperas Cove Herald that she was willing to test her limits — a trait that would have served her well in Ranger School.
"You have to be the one who's on top of things, who wants to get stuff done," Haver told the newspaper. "I may think that I'm OK right now, but I may not even know my potential yet because I haven't been pushed like that."