Women In Combat Debate Fueled By Female Army Ranger School Graduates

Capt. Kristen Griest and First Lt. Shaye Haver made history last Friday when they became the first two female army ranger school graduates to ever pin the coveted black and gold tabs on their uniforms at a graduation ceremony at Fort Benning, Georgia. Still, it remains uncertain if the Pentagon will ever allow women in combat positions, even if they meet all of the required military standards, Time reported.

“That storied black-and-gold patch places them among the nation’s top soldiers (only 3% of their male counterparts have earned it throughout Ranger history). But despite the accomplishment, they’re still barred from direct ground combat, which is the Rangers’ raison d’être.”

As for the two female graduates, Griest says she’s curious to see what doors their accomplishments will open up for women in the military going forward and that she was “really thinking of future generations of women,” as she fought to complete the grueling nine-week program.

The week’s historic events are helping shed some much-needed light on the complicated issue of whether women should be allowed to serve in combat alongside men. Since 2013, the U.S. military has slowly been integrating women into combat roles after the Pentagon lifted its longstanding ban, but last Wednesday officials from the army, navy, and air force expressed intentions to move toward full integration.

According to PBS Newshour, the new Army chief of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, is still debating whether women in the infantry, armor, and other previously male-only fields would affect the nation’s “readiness” for combat.

“Right now, I would call myself right on the line. Whatever decision is made is going to have some pretty far-reaching impact. So it’s a big deal, and I want to make sure I’m thinking it through.”

The U.S. Navy Seals have already revealed a plan to begin accepting women into their ranks after the army announced the two female soldiers would graduate from the elite Ranger School. Adm. Jon Greenert told the Navy Times last Tuesday that the Navy was prepared to permit anyoneto become a SEAL, as long as they can meet the gender non-specific standards, including the “legendary” six-month Basic Underwater Demolition training. He went on to say that both he and Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who serves as head of the Naval Special Warfare Command, believe women should be allowed to serve in combat if they meet the same standards.

Although Marine Corps leaders have so far remained much more reserved when publicly speaking about the issue of women in combat, the success of Griest and Haver in Ranger School will be taken into account as the Pentagon continues to review and test new cases. And that’s something both women can be proud of.

“I do hope that with our performance in Ranger School we’ve been able to inform that decision,” Griest told The Guardian. “We can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men, and we can deal with the same stresses and training as the men can.”

[Photo by Jessica McGowan/Stringer/Getty Images]