Capt. Kristen Griest, one of three women to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School, has become the first female infantry officer, a Fort Benning official confirmed Wednesday morning.
Griest will graduate this week from the Captains Career Course at Fort Benning. The Army has not announced her next assignment.
Military Occupational Specialty assignments in armor and infantry were not open to women until late last year when Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter opened all military jobs to qualified personnel, male or female.
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“Like any other officer who wishes to branch transfer, Capt. Griest applied for an exception to Army policy to transfer from military police to infantry,” Fort Benning Spokesman Bob Purtiman said. “Her transfer was approved by the Department of the Army over the weekend.”
Griest was not available for comment and Benning officials had no additional comment.
This will not be the first time Griest has blazed a trail. She and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first two women to graduate from Ranger School, the Army’s most difficult combat training course, last August. They were part of a pilot program that led to the school being opened to women shortly after they graduated. Maj. Lisa Jaster, who started the course last April with Griest and Haver, graduated in October.
“I am proud of Capt. Kristen Griest, not because she is the first, but because she is following her heart,” Jaster said. “She is a leader of soldiers who puts her whole self into her job and will continue to make sacrifices in order to make our Army stronger.”
Griest, a native of Orange, Conn., is a 2011 U.S. Military Academy graduate. Sue Fulton, a member of the 1980 West Point class that was the first to include women, is confident Griest will be successful.
“At West Point, our highest goal is to train and develop leaders of character like Kristen Griest,” Fulton said. “Having gotten to know her, I can tell you that the last thing Kris will want from this is more attention. Just as she shunned the media after Ranger School, she will just want to get to work. Which is why she is the kind of officer we need in the infantry: extremely tough, smart, a quiet professional and a team player. She is the first of a select group of women who will step up to the challenges of Army Infantry, and make it stronger through their talent and selfless service.”
Griest talked exclusively to the Ledger-Enquirer in November about how she ended up in Ranger School. She decided she wanted to go to the elite leadership course when she was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy.
One of her mentors, an officer who had served in the Ranger Regiment, ran an infantry mentorship program for male cadets.
Her senior year in 2010-11, he invited Griest and a few other female cadets interested in Ranger School to join them.
He had one requirement: The women had to train to meet the male physical standard and would be graded on that scale.
“Being held to that higher expectation made all the difference for me,” Griest says. “Suddenly there was someone with experience and authority not only saying I could do this, but that I should do it because my soldiers deserve my best effort.”
Her perspective changed. “It was like, ‘OK, I’m not outstanding if I meet this standard, I’m letting someone down if I don’t meet it,’” she says.
Though Griest will be the first woman infantry or armor officer, others are on the way. This summer, 22 women will enroll in the Armor and Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Courses at Fort Benning. Most of the women are currently in West Point or ROTC and will be commissioned as officers when they graduate. Thirteen will enter the armor field and nine will join infantry, according to a USA Today report.