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Conn. Woman One Of The First Two Female Ranger School Grads

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(Photo by Sgt. Vincent Fusco/Dir. of Public Affairs and Communications
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Flickr/west_point

A Connecticut woman is among the first two female soldiers to ever graduate from the U.S. Army's Ranger School.

Captain Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Texas were scheduled to graduate today alongside 94 male soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The two-month Ranger course tests soldiers' ability to overcome fatigue, hunger, and stress during combat operations. The Army opened Ranger School to female soldiers for the first time this year as part of the military's push to open more combat jobs to women.

Griest is a graduate of West Point. She's now a military police officer and served in Afghanistan. Sean Mahon was her track coach at Amity High School, where Griest was captain of the team.

"One of our sayings on our team way back then was it's kind of fun to do the impossible. And it's great to see people take that theme and take it outside the school walls of Amity and take it with them in life to do what they want to do in life" he said.

Susan Cambria has lived just a few houses down from the Griest family since Kristen Griest was a young girl. She says her daughter, Joanna, and Griest have been best friends since they were two years old. Cambria knows Greist as a determined young woman.

“She wasn’t the kid in high school that everyone said, 'oh, she is the star of every sport,' but she’s always been active and she’s someone who’s quietly determined," Cambria said. "And she, without fanfare, she decides what she’s going to do and she gets it done, and she does it well.”

Cambria says when Griest was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013 she looked forward to working as a Military Police officer.

“She was excited to be going there. She was studying Farsi and she was going to be working with Afghan women and she was very happy to be able to do that. And she did not see this as something scary, as we did. It was just exciting. It’s exciting to see what she was able to do and what she’s done for all women,” Cambria said.

Cambria said Greist has never shied away from something that’s difficult, including the Ranger test.

In a joint statement, the families of the two women said they were just like all the soldiers in their graduating class: "happy, relieved, and ready for some good food and sleep."

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.