Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday congratulated the first two women to complete U.S. Army Ranger School and said the achievement will make it hard for the services to argue that combat jobs should remain closed to female troops.
"Clearly, these two soldiers are trailblazers," he said of Capt. Kristen Griest, 26, of Connecticut and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, 25, of Arizona who, along with 94 men, will be pinned with the coveted Ranger Tab during a ceremony Friday at Fort Benning in Georgia.
Carter noted that the services must report to him by Sept. 30 on their "justifications, if there are any" for seeking an exception for certain billets rather than opening them up to all candidates, regardless of gender, who can meet the standards.
The secretary noted that the two women still can't apply for the 75th Ranger Regiment despite passing Ranger School. "Rangers are still on that list of positions that is at this moment closed to women," he said.
In other news, Carter also came down solidly behind President Obama's effort to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center before he leaves office. The issue was "not something, in my judgment, to leave to the next president," the secretary said.
Carter said the main stumbling block to closing Guantanamo was a group of about 50 prisoners who can't be transferred to other countries. Despite opposition from Congress, the Pentagon has been looking for sites in the U.S. that could be used to detain indefinitely the prisoners, he said.
Pentagon officials have looked at sites at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Charleston, South Carolina, naval base, "and we will also be assessing other locations in coming weeks," Carter said.
Without identifying individual lawmakers, Carter said he had spoken to members of Congress who were "willing to consider such a plan" to transfer Guantanamo prisoners to the U.S.
--Richard Sisk can be reached at email@example.com.