- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

FORT BENNING, Ga. (AP) - The latest on the first female Army soldiers to complete the military’s elite Ranger School (all times local):

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3:15 p.m.

One of the two women among the first to graduate from the Army’s elite Ranger School says she never seriously considered quitting the training, though she did hit some low points.

Capt. Kristen Griest told reporters Thursday that one of the most difficult portions of the training came in the swamps of Florida. Her fellow Ranger School graduate, 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, says “there’s definitely a point you hit along the way” when she considered quitting the rigorous training.

Haver says graduating from Ranger school is “probably one of the highlights of my life.”

Griest says she is happy to be done with the course, which she took to become a better leader. She encouraged other women starting the training to keep their goal of finishing in mind and to remind themselves of why they’re there.

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1:30 p.m.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter says he has personally congratulated the two female soldiers who this week became the first women to complete the rigorous Army Ranger School.

At a Pentagon news conference, he called the women trailblazers who showed their capabilities by finishing what Carter called the Ranger “proving ground.”

Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver this week became the first female soldiers to complete Ranger School, and they will graduate at a ceremony Friday at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Being Ranger-qualified is a career-enhancing accomplishment, but the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment is not open to women. That could change. Carter is due to decide in coming months whether to approve any recommended exceptions to a policy of opening all military positions to women.

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Noon

The top officer of the Army’s prestigious Ranger School said the two women who will graduate Friday had to prove themselves “because you know everyone is watching.”

Cmd. Sgt. Major Curtis Arnold said a decade ago he would have doubted that women could handle the rigorous course - particularly the long marches and patrols in which soldiers carry rucksacks, weapons and other gear exceeding pounds total extra weight.

But 1st Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas, and Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut, not only completed the rigorous, two-month course, they had to restart portions of it after failing to pass two prior attempts.

“These two soldiers who are graduating tomorrow have absolutely earned the respect of every Ranger instructor,” Arnold said. “These are dedicated, tough soldiers who do not quit and do not complain.”

Arnold said the women seemed determined to prevail “because you know everyone is watching. And truthfully there are probably going to be a few folks who want you to fail.”

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