When Capt. Kristen M. Griest made history last summer by becoming one of the first two women to graduate the Army's legendarily difficult Ranger School, she made her intentions clear: She was considering joining a Special Operations unit. Now, she has accomplished another first with some similar demands: becoming the U.S. military's first female infantry officer.
Griest requested a transfer to become an infantry officer, and it was accepted Monday, said Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk, an Army spokesman. On Thursday, she will graduate from the Maneuver Captains Career Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, which teaches students how to do tactical planning for infantry companies and battalions and lead as a company commander.
"Like any other officer wishing to branch-transfer, Capt. Griest applied for an exception to Army policy to transfer from military police to infantry," said Bob Purtiman, a spokesman for the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. "Her transfer was approved by the Department of the Army, and she's now an infantry officer."
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The news was first reported Wednesday by the independent Army Times and the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer newspaper near Fort Benning. Purtiman said in an interview with The Washington Post that a graduation ceremony for Griest and fellow captains career course students will be held Thursday, but it will not be open to media.
Griest, of Orange, Connecticut, entered the Army as a military police officer after earning her commission in 2011 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. A former high school cross-country runner, she was one of 19 women who attempted Ranger School last year beginning in April as the service opened it to women for the first time while researching how to more fully integrate women in the military.
In August, Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, an Apache helicopter pilot and fellow West Point graduate, became the first women to graduate Ranger School. They were followed in October by Maj. Lisa Jaster, another West Point graduate, who activated from the Army Reserve to attempt the course.
Jaster, who is able to speak freely as a reservist, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that Griest has "talked about wanting to be in the infantry since the first time I met her."
"I am proud of her for following her dreams and setting the example for future male and female soldiers," Jaster added.
The Army opened Ranger School to women on a permanent basis in September after the graduation of Griest and Haver. In December, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced that he was removing all bans on women serving in combat units, and he gave the services until this year to determine how they would do so.
Griest could be joined by more female infantry officers by the fall. Earlier this month, the Army announced that it approved requests from nine female cadets to join the infantry and 13 to join the armor branch, which also was opened to women for the first time this year. After commissioning, the new officers are expected to go through training this summer and could carry out their desired jobs by this fall.