By Tabitha Harris,
Domestic News Writer
Although women have been granted acceptance into the various branches of the United States’ military, elite groups such as Navy SEALs and Army Rangers have remained closed to them. The training required for the exclusive sub-branches was thought far too grueling for women to handle. In recent days, three women have successfully completed the regiment of training designed for Army Rangers, graduating alongside their male team members.
Captain Kristen Greist and 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver graduated earlier in the year on August 21st and on the morning of September 16th, Major Lisa Jaster became the first female Army Reserve officer to rise to the elite standing of an Army Ranger.
At 37, she is also the eldest out of the three women to successfully graduate. Greist and Haver are 26 and 25 respectively, closer to the average age of trainees in the U.S. Army Ranger School: 23. Jaster challenged her physical and emotional stamina as the Army Ranger course is the one of the toughest courses in the United States military. On average, 36 percent of students fail within the first four days of training.
Jaster acknowledges she would have graduated with her teammates Greist and Haver in August if unforeseen circumstances had not cropped up. Greist and Haver progressed through all three phases of Ranger training but Jaster was left behind to repeat the first and last phases. She remembered her feelings of disappointment and borderline despair. The two other women had expected that she would pass the sections along with them, only to find out that she did not. However, on the verge of defeat, Jaster found the one thing which infused her with strength: her children.
One of the catalysts which pushed Jaster to enroll in Army Ranger School was the on-looking gaze of her two children: 7-year-old Zac and 3-year-old Victoria. She gives voice to the deep-seated motivation which fueled her actions and reveals the she wants her children to work hard and make the world a better place. Although a desire to clarify the issue of women achieving the status of Army Ranger spurred Jaster to realize her goal, there was an objective closer to home. Her children’s eyes were on her and she wanted to give them a picture of how to do life in the real world. When Jaster pulled out the picture of her two red-haired children which she carried with her, she knew quitting was not an option. Describing the picture, Jaster recalls the superhero shirts her children were wearing. She wanted to be that for them—a hero. A glance at her treasured photo gave Jaster the strength and energy she needed. She dove back in to the arduous training and finished the course after 180 days, longer than the normal timeframe of 61 days but still meeting the requirements for completion.
Jaster admits she had quite mundane motives for enrolling in Army Ranger School. Along with providing a good role model for her children, she says her initial reason for joining the army reserve was because she missed the camaraderie and friendship of West Point and overseas active duty.
She left active duty in 2007 and began life as a civilian, working as engineer at Shell Oil Company in Houston and then starting a family. In 2014, she returned to the army but this time the army reserve, and soon after came the decision to enroll in Ranger School. She knew that balancing all of this was difficult, but she adores what she does.
She had a passion for it. To aid in finding that balance, Jaster enlisted the help of her children and husband in preparing for the Ranger course. For example, her husband Allan, a Marine Lieutenant Colonel, ran weight vest runs with her. Her children helped her during other aspects of training. Army Ranger School was a family affair.
Although many will look on Jaster’s accomplishment as a victory on the side of women’s rights activists and feminists, there is another deeper dimension to the whole affair for Jaster herself— balance between work and family and a desire to fulfill her dreams. Most importantly, however, giving her children a role model and a hero to look up to.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 20th print edition.
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