The effort to open direct-action combat jobs to women gained congressional support Thursday with a group of female lawmakers praising the first two female soldiers to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School.
More than a dozen senators from both sides of the aisle have joined Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, to introduce a resolution commending Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver for their "historic accomplishment of being the first two women soldiers to complete United States Army Ranger School and earn their highly coveted Ranger tabs."
"I’m so proud to honor Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver for their towering achievement in being the first females in history to earn their Army Ranger tabs," Mikulski said in a press release. "Captain Griest and First Lieutenant Haver have shown that women can compete on a level-playing field with men to serve in the defense of our nation."
Collins, who sponsored the resolution, said that "earning the right to wear a Ranger tab is not for the faint-hearted."
"The rigors of the course test even the strongest service members. Many try; few succeed," she added.
Ranger School is a 62-day course that's described as the Army's premiere infantry leadership course, an ordeal that pushes students to their physical and mental limits.
Over the past two years, only about 40 percent of males successfully completed the course, according to leaders from the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade.
During the three-phase course, the students learn how to operate in three environments -- woodlands in Fort Benning, Ga., mountainous terrain in Dahlonega, Ga., and coastal swamp at Camp Rudder in Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
"Captain Griest and Lieutenant Haver have demonstrated that character, courage, and tenacity, not gender, are the hallmarks of great service members and leaders," Collins said. "Through their grit and determination these distinguished and inspiring soldiers have made history and serve as role models for girls and boys -- women and men -- in the United States and around the world."
The Army’s recent announcement to permanently open Ranger School for women marks another important step in expanding roles for women in the military, Mikulski said.
"Continued gender integration will improve readiness and help our Armed Forces to recruit the best talent we can throughout all of our services," she said.
In addition to Senators Mikulski and Collins, the resolution was co-sponsored by Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire; Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska; and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
On the Democrat side, the following senators supported the resolution: Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin; Barbara Boxer, D-California; Dianne Feinstein, D-California; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri; Patty Murray, D-Washington; Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire; Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan; and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.
The historic achievement of Griest and Haver comes at a time all of the services are preparing to make recommendations of how to open direct-action combat jobs such as infantry to women. Under a 2013 directive from then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the military services must open all combat jobs to women by next year or explain why any must stay closed.
--Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org