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First female Army Guard enlisted soldiers graduate Ranger School

The first enlisted female National Guard soldiers recently graduated the rigorous Army Ranger School, joining the ranks of a handful of officer and enlisted female graduates.

Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley and Sgt. Danielle Faber, with the South Carolina Army National Guard and Pennsylvania Army National Guard, respectively, completed the school on Dec. 13.

“My mindset going into this was to leave 100 percent on the table and never have a regret or look back and say, ‘I should have pushed harder or I should have done something different,’” said Smiley in a Guard statement. “My mindset today is that I did just that. I gave 100 percent. I did everything that I could, and now here I am.”

Two female Army officers were the first to make it through the school in 2015, when Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver succeeded. In 2018, Army Guard 1st Lt. Emily Lilly graduated as the first female Guard officer.

The first female enlisted graduate was Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley, also in 2018, according to the statement.

Smiley said that it wasn’t a matter of she and the other graduates, “charting a course” to complete the school but instead that women had not previously been allowed to attempt the school due to the ban on women in combat arms.

“There’s many women out there who are completely capable of doing it,” said Smiley. “Do it. ... Put in the hard work, put in the dedication to accomplish the goal.”

The pair can attest to the effort, and setbacks, that come with attempting the grueling training.

Faber started working toward the goal in 2016, when she first attempted the Pennsylvania Ranger/Sapper state assessment program but was not selected. The sergeant tried again in 2018 and was selected.

“Train hard for it,” said Farber. “Come into it knowing you’re going to be doing things that every other male that comes through here has to do. Don’t come through here and expect any sort of special treatment because it won't happen.”

The first female enlisted soldier to graduate Ranger School, Kelley, said in an Army statement in August that spent five months preparing and studying while deployed in Iraq.

Since the first female officers graduated in 2015, more than 30 female soldiers have earned the Ranger tab.

“Soldiers need to understand that sometimes things you had planned change,” she said. “So just be open-minded to new things and don’t be scared to go after things that seem impossible. Because nothing’s impossible if somebody’s done it before you.”

Since 2016, more than 1,200 female soldiers have entered combat career fields such as field artillery, armor and infantry, according to the Army statement.

Other firsts have come recently for previously closed fields such at Navy SEALs and Marine Reconnaissance.

In November Lance Cpl. Alexa Barth was the first female Marine to graduate the 12-week Basic Reconnaissance Course and in September 2017 1st Lt. Marina A. Hierl was the first woman to graduate the Marine Infantry Officer Course.

A briefing earlier this month by the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services showed that there are 60 percent more women serving in previously all-male Marine units than in the previous year.

For the Corps, that meant 613 Marines and sailors in those units. As of August, 89 female Marines had earned formerly gender-restricted Military Occupational Specialties, raising that total to 231, according to the briefing.

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