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1st Lt. Shaye Haver stands amidst a crowd during her Ranger School graduation on Aug. 21, 2015.

1st Lt. Shaye Haver stands amidst a crowd during her Ranger School graduation on Aug. 21, 2015. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)

1st Lt. Shaye Haver stands amidst a crowd during her Ranger School graduation on Aug. 21, 2015.

1st Lt. Shaye Haver stands amidst a crowd during her Ranger School graduation on Aug. 21, 2015. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)

Capt. Kristen Griest wipes away a tear after earning her Ranger Tab on Aug. 21, 2015.

Capt. Kristen Griest wipes away a tear after earning her Ranger Tab on Aug. 21, 2015. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)

Family, friends and comrades of Ranger Class 08-15 gather to watch the Rangers in Action demonstration and "pin" their loved ones with the coveted Ranger Tab at Victory Pond on Aug. 21, 2015.

Family, friends and comrades of Ranger Class 08-15 gather to watch the Rangers in Action demonstration and "pin" their loved ones with the coveted Ranger Tab at Victory Pond on Aug. 21, 2015. (Patrick A. Albright/U.S. Army)

Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley speaks with Capt. Kristen Griest at the Army Ranger graduation ceremony at Victory Pond in at Fort Benning, Ga., on Aug. 21, 2015.

Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley speaks with Capt. Kristen Griest at the Army Ranger graduation ceremony at Victory Pond in at Fort Benning, Ga., on Aug. 21, 2015. (Patrick A. Albright/U.S. Army)

The Ranger Class 08-15 salute as friends, family and comrades gather to watch the Rangers in action at Victory Pond in Fort Benning, Ga., on Aug. 21, 2015.

The Ranger Class 08-15 salute as friends, family and comrades gather to watch the Rangers in action at Victory Pond in Fort Benning, Ga., on Aug. 21, 2015. (Patrick A. Albright/U.S. Army)

1st Lt. Shaye Haver gets pinned with the black-and-gold half-moon Ranger Tab at Victory Pond in at Fort Benning, Ga., on Aug. 21, 2015.

1st Lt. Shaye Haver gets pinned with the black-and-gold half-moon Ranger Tab at Victory Pond in at Fort Benning, Ga., on Aug. 21, 2015. (Patrick A. Albright/U.S. Army)

Army Maj. Gen. Austin Miller, the commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, called the graduating class “historic for a number of reasons,” including the two female soldiers.

Army Maj. Gen. Austin Miller, the commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, called the graduating class “historic for a number of reasons,” including the two female soldiers. (Markeith Horace/U.S. Army)

FORT BENNING, Ga. — Under a clear blue southwest Georgia sky, the Army’s first female soldiers to earn the coveted Ranger Tab were pinned with the black-and-gold half-moon patches Friday morning.

In a swarm of well-wishers, media and 94 male graduates, family members of Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver placed the hard-earned tabs on their left shoulders, the culmination of 162 days of often-brutal training in the Army’s premier leadership course.

Addressing an overflow crowd that included new Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley and several “Ranger legends,” Army Maj. Gen. Austin Miller, the commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, called the graduating class “historic for a number of reasons,” including the two female soldiers.

Miller turned his speech toward the many naysayers, especially online, who continue to express beliefs that the Army lowered its standards. He invited them to visit Fort Benning “and re-qualify as a Ranger.”

“To date we’ve not had takers who want to come and revalidate their tabs,” Miller said. “There was no pressure on me from above to lower any standards. These soldiers graduating today accomplished it with the very same standards of Ranger School as those before them.”

Griest, a military police officer stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., and Haver, an Apache pilot at Fort Carson, Colo., stood stoic among their male peers through Friday’s ceremony — which included demonstrations of Ranger tactics including fast roping from a helicopter, hand-to-hand combat, explosives and waterborne exercises — at Fort Benning’s picturesque Victory Pond. In their green-gray Army Combat Uniforms, the women did not stand out from their male counterparts.

The women, speaking Thursday, said they struggled at times during the three phases of training that take candidates from the woods of Fort Benning through mountainous north Georgia and the swampland of north Florida.

“I’m just happy to be done with the course,” said Griest, who plans to go into civil affairs and hopes to become a Green Beret. “I came here to be a better leader. I feel like I accomplished that.”

“We just kind of forced ourselves through,” said Haver, an Apache pilot, acknowledging low points along the way. “But the ability to look at my (male) peers and see they were sucking just as bad as I was, that kept me going.”

The women are still barred by policy from joining the Rangers.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com Twitter:@CDicksteinDC

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.

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