House women recognize female Ranger School graduates

House women recognize female Ranger School graduates
© Greg Nash

Female House Armed Services Committee members introduced a bipartisan resolution on Thursday congratulating the first two women to graduate the Army's elite Ranger School. 

The resolution was led by female veterans Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a retired Air Force colonel and the first female pilot to fly in combat and command an combat squadron, and Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardThe Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine Outsider candidates outpoll insider candidates Krystal Ball: Tulsi Gabbard surges, is she the most electable? MORE (D-Hawaii), an Army National Guard captain who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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"It's great to have my colleagues here from both sides of the aisle on the Armed Services Committee, who've come together for this resolution congratulating Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver for their extraordinary accomplishment for making it through the grueling, arduous -- most physically and mentally, Army Ranger training," McSally said at a press conference. 

"Only the best get through," she added. "And not just make through, but really excel." 

The resolution comes as the Pentagon is preparing to open all combat jobs to women by Jan. 1, unless the services request and are granted exceptions for specific jobs. The services are due to submit any exceptions by the end of this month, for review and approval by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. 

It's unclear yet whether any of the services may ask for exceptions, but McSally and other females on the committee say they will exercise oversight throughout the process.

"They are extraordinary leaders, and leadership is gender neutral," McSally said. "We should always be picking the best man for the job, even if she is a woman." 

"They've shown that they are professional warriors, physically and mentally tough, ready and trained to excute the missions that are required of them," said Gabbard.

"There will be many others who will follow the example they have set. There's obviously still much work to be done, coming before us in the next few months and we will make sure that qualified service members have the opportunity to lead our troops, to serve our country in these jobs that they prove they are qualified for and that they are capable of doing regardless of gender," she added. 

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) added, "Women in combat are lethal, they are effective, and they can handle the challenge. The Pentagon's coming decision to open all combat positions to women is common sense. It's a long time coming, but it is here." 

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said "both Republicans and Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee recognize the importance of this achievement of Capt. Griest and First Lt. Shaye Haver. "I look forward to continue working with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to break down barriers to recognize the importance of women as leaders to our military." 

Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee, said she was delighted about the accomplishment.

"We also know that there are many women who have performed dramatically over the last number of years, and people have just questioned whether or not they actually were there," she said. "We're delighted that they've shown this example." 

The two women were of 19 who took the course on an experimental basis this year, as part of the Army's study of whether it should open every combat job to women. 

Roughly 400 students in total also took the course during that time, with only 93 earning the Ranger tab. 

A third woman is making her way through the course. Earlier this month, the Army announced that the Ranger School would be open to all genders.  

McSally said Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsLawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges GOP senators warn against Trump firing intelligence community official MORE (R-Maine) and Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (D-Md.) have proposed a similar resolution in the Senate. 

"We look forward to working together with each other...to make sure we've got the best military that includes all the men and women that are qualified and capable to serve in the positions that they're capable of, regardless of their gender and not any artificial restrictions," she said.