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First enlisted woman graduates from US Army Ranger school

Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley became the first enlisted woman to graduate Ranger School, and earn the coveted Ranger tab at Fort Benning, Ga., August 31, 2018. (Patrick A. Albright/U.S. Army)
August 31, 2018

Just years after the U.S. lifted bans on women serving in combat roles, a woman has made history in one of the Army’s most elite training schools.

This week, Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley, 29, became the first enlisted female to graduate from Ranger school, Newsweek reported Friday.

Kelley’s feat comes just five years after the military permitted female soldiers to serve in combat roles, and just three years after Ranger school was opened to female soldiers.

The Ranger graduation ceremony took place at Fort Benning’s Hurley Hill Training Area on Friday.

Kelley serves as an electronic warfare specialist in the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade based at Fort Bliss.

She previously served two years in South Korea, and nine months on deployment in Iraq.

In March, she returned to the U.S. and began the 62-day grueling feat of Ranger training in July.

Kelley was one of 127 graduates who received their Ranger tab on Friday, according to Army Times. The class began training in July with a size of 347 soldiers.

Kelley marks the 12th female soldier to have successfully graduated from Ranger school.

The first females to graduate from the Ranger school were Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver in 2015. The two went on to become commanders in the 82nd Airborne Division. After their accomplishment, the school was later opened to female soldiers on a full-time basis.

U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville said in April, “We have women in every single infantry, armor and artillery battalion, and every single brigade combat team in the Army.”

“If you meet the standards, you can serve anywhere you want in the United States Army,” he said in March. “Women are meeting the standards, and they are doing well.”

Ranger school was established in 1952, and its current motto warns, “Not for the weak or fainthearted.” It is considered the Army’s more difficult training course. It’s common for students to fail one of the school’s three phases, causing them to be recycled through the program.

Approximately 40 percent of male soldiers are able to complete the course successfully. Only 25 percent of students are able to graduate without repeating one of the phases.

Those who complete the school garner a significant level of respect for achieving an elite level of small unit combat skills and tactics training. Officers and NCOs in infantry or other combat units are expected to complete Ranger school.

Female soldiers have also attempted the rigorous Special Forces training to become Green Berets, but not have been successful thus far.