A third female soldier will earn the coveted Ranger Tab, officials confirmed Monday.
The woman, who will graduate Friday along with 87 male classmates, is the last of the group of 19 female soldiers who started Ranger School in April as part of the Army's gender-integrated assessment. Media reports have identified her as Maj. Lisa Jaster, 37. The Army has not publicly identified her.
Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver graduated from Ranger School on Aug. 21, becoming the first women to earn the distinctive black-and-gold tab. The other 16 women were dropped from the course.
The Army's gender-integrated assessment at Ranger School has drawn a high level of scrutiny, with many questioning whether the Army is lowering its standards for the elite school, while others have cheered on the female students.
Soldiers conduct airborne and air assault operations on Aug. 6 during the Ranger Course at Camp Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Photo Credit: Pfc. Ebony Banks/Army
Critics of the Army's decision to open Ranger School to women — a school that until this year had only been open to men — have repeatedly bashed the effort online and in social media. Many have said the Army was relaxing its standards for the school or giving the female candidates an advantage by allowing them multiple attempts at the school's three phases.
Army officials have long insisted that the standards have not been changed in any way.
The Army in September announced that Ranger School is now open to all qualified soldiers, regardless of gender.
The debate over Ranger School reignited last month when the Army announced the third female soldier would again recycle the Swamp Phase, the course's third and final phase.
Before this most recent recycle, the soldier had completed three attempts at the Darby Phase, two at the Mountain Phase, and one at the Swamp Phase.
Griest and Haver completed Ranger School after three tries at the Darby Phase and one attempt each at the other phases.
It is not unprecedented for students to recycle the famously grueling course several times, officials said when Army Times asked about the ongoing social media debate about upholding the school's standards.
"Approximately 34 percent of students who enter Ranger School recycle at least one phase of the course," said Col. David Fivecoat, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, in a statement at the time. "Recycling each phase is uncommon. However, this occurs for approximately 15 students each year, with each situation considered on a case-by-case basis depending on the circumstances."
Soldiers conduct mountaineering training on July 14 during the Ranger Course on Mount Yonah in Cleveland, Ga.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Scott Brooks/Army
What remains to be seen is whether the Army will open its infantry, armor and special operations ranks to women. Senior Army leaders have submitted their recommendation to the Defense Department; a decision isn't expected until the end of the year.
The Army has already opened its combat engineer and field artillery military occupational specialties to women.
Ranger School is the Army's premier combat leadership course, teaching students how to overcome fatigue, hunger and stress to lead soldiers in small-unit combat operations. It is separate from the 75th Ranger Regiment. Soldiers who have earned Ranger tabs, male or female, are not automatically part of the regiment, which has its own requirements and assessment process.
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.