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Inspiring a Nation

This August, Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Hayer made history when they became the first two women soldiers to complete the notoriously difficult United States Army Ranger School.

Earning the right to wear the highly coveted Ranger tab is not for the faint-hearted. The rigors of the grueling course test even the strongest service members. Many try; few succeed.

Only three percent of all Army troops wear a Ranger tab. This April, four hundred soldiers began the 8-week Ranger School, but only ninety-six were able to complete the full course. Last year, according to the U.S. Army, 4,057 students attempted the arduous training process, but only 1,609 were successful.

Through their skill, grit, and determination, Captain Griest and Lieutenant Haver have demonstrated that character, courage, physical fitness, and tenacity are the hallmarks of extraordinary service members and leaders, and that both men and women possess these qualities.

To commemorate this historic achievement and to congratulate these two soldiers, I sponsored a bipartisan Senate resolution to honor Captain Griest and Lieutenant Haver. This resolution was co-sponsored by a group of women Senators, including the senior woman Senator, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, from all parts of the country, and with views across the ideological spectrum.

As we honor these women, it is important to note that 2015 was the first year that women were admitted to the Army Ranger School. This admission was part of an experiment to test whether or not women were able to physically withstand and surmount the toughness of program.

This class of Army Rangers was the first integrated group. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder, enduring the course’s extreme mental and physical stress, together. Each carried his or her own weight, and at times the weight of others, proving that integration represents not just a lofty goal, but an achievable reality. Their collective and individual accomplishments embody the values of our Armed Forces and our nation.

As we celebrate this milestone, we must also recognize that this journey toward integration continues a history of progress. Before Captain Griest and Lieutenant Haver, the first African Americans and women who answered the call to military service laid the foundation for making integration possible. These pioneers inherently understood the importance of their contributions to the realization of full integration. They also recognized the undeniable truth that an integrated and balanced force is a successful force, both on and off the battlefield.

The effectiveness of a military unit is almost always determined by the cohesion of its individual members, their dedication to the team, and their commitment to the mission. No individual service member can succeed by his or her efforts alone. Success is forged together.

Captain Griest and Lieutenant Haver, along with their fellow Ranger School classmates, braved the challenges and serve as role models for girls and boys - women and men - in the United States and around the world.

As a nation, we express our pride and gratitude for their personal courage and sacrifice and that of all members of our armed forces. I am confident that the military and our country are more battle-ready as a result. I am also confident that Captain Griest and Lieutenant Haver will continue to serve with distinction as they “Lead the Way!” as our nation’s newest United States Army Rangers.