Two retired officers whose names are etched in U.S. Army Ranger lore say they welcome the two women who will join their elite combat club on Friday.
Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Conn., and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas, completed the final phase of the difficult training program over the weekend in the Florida swamps near Destin.
"They met the standards," said retired Col. Ralph Puckett, 89, who led the first Ranger company into combat in 1950 during the Korean War. "They deserve the tab. I am proud of them and I am happy for them. I think they have done a great job."
Retired Maj. Gen. Ken Leuer, 81, was charged in 1974 with training and recruiting the first Ranger battalion, which became the forerunner to what is now the 75th Ranger Regiment. He agrees with Puckett.
"They met the standards," Leuer said of Haver and Griest. "There is no doubt in my mind. They were closely watched, that is for sure. If anything, they had more pressure on them than the rest of the class because of close observation by unit leadership."
Asked if he welcomed the two West Point graduates into the Ranger community, Leuer did not hesitate in his answer.
"Forever," Leuer said. "I am glad they're here."
Puckett has no doubts the women met the same standards men have been held to for decades.
"If you think the standards have been lowered, you don't know Col. (David) Fivecoat; you don't know Command Sgt. Maj. (Curtis) Arnold and the professional cadre out there," Puckett said. "They are doing their jobs. There has never been a Ranger course that had more effort, more command supervision on it to ensure that the standards were not lowered. It probably comes as close to being perfect as it could be. I am proud of the cadre there. They have done a great job."
Leuer calls Ranger School, which challenges a soldier's mental and physical toughness from the mountains to the swamps, the "best leadership training course in the world."
"The standards that must be met to earn the Ranger tab have been developed over the years and refined when necessary," Leuer said. "They have been proven very effective."
Puckett said the Ranger instructors, the ones charged with grading the students on simulated combat patrol missions, did their jobs.
"Their approach was: 'This is my job, and that's a Ranger student, and I am going to treat students like I always have. We are going to maintain standards. And if they meet the standard, I am going to give them a go,'" Puckett said. "Those are professionals out there. They know what they are doing."
Puckett and Leuer plan to attend the graduation. Leuer said he plans to seek out Haver and Griest.
"I want to congratulate them," he said. "I am very proud of them. I want to wish them luck and remind them that 'Rangers Lead the Way.'"