I am sure most of us heard about the two women who recently became the first females in history to complete Army Ranger training. Captain Kristen Griest and 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver graduated in August of this year with their ranger tabs alongside many strong and courageous men. While they are not the first two women to ever attempt the training, they are the first to have successfully completed. While the US Army has different standards for physical assessments and height/weight based on age and gender, Ranger School requirements are for the most part straight across the board. The two officers walked across the graduation stage on August 21, 2015, both donning shaved heads and a fierce sense of pride at their accomplishment.
While any human being who can conquer the challenges faced in this type of rigorous military training is amazing, women who can do it definitely take the cake. I do not say this to undermine any accomplishments made by other servicemen, but we cannot deny science and the biological differences between the sexes that make for an un-level playing field. In this regard, and speaking from first-hand experience being a former military member myself, I have infinite respect for servicewomen. An average sized man carrying a 100-pound rucksack on twelve miles of rocky terrain is nowhere near as difficult as it is for a woman of average size to complete the same task. I recall struggling, grunting, sweating, talking myself out of tremendous back and shoulder pain in order to keep pace with my fellow male soldiers, most of whom were able to treat the exercise as a light stroll in the woods. At 5’1”, I was always at the front of the pack while my taller counterparts held the back end of the formation. I was constantly yelled at to move faster as the men in the back dealt with supposed shin splints and cramping from having to take such small strides at my pace. I could go on and on about the differences in perspective throughout my six years’ time in the service, but I think my point has been made.
In any event, the level of pride I felt upon graduating my initial training phase played a huge part in making me the woman I am today. Knowing that I could conquer the physical and mental demands of such extreme magnitude has made everything else in my life drastically easier in comparison. The main issue that I would like to address on this subject, however, is that of self-respect as it relates to physical endurance and capabilities.
In any branch of the military, it is taught that you must push past your limits to find your true strength, to be all you can be, to initiate yourself into the elite 1% of our population. Military men and women are living testaments that the human body is capable of so much more than the average being ever pushes him or herself through. We embrace our team members and subordinates as family, never leaving anyone behind and making sure everyone makes it to the finish line. If you have never seen the power of true teamwork and motivation in action, follow this link to a popular, yet controversial video (see the comments following the video to find the controversy). I have been on both sides of the spectrum, encouraging others to success and receiving encouragement myself. It is one of the best feelings in the world to belong to such a close-knit entity, but if we do not know where our boundaries are things could potentially turn dangerous.
I left the military after sustaining injuries that hindered my ability to do my job. My injuries were a result of years of pushing myself to carry large packs, making unrealistic strides in mile after mile of road marching, and not listening to what my body was trying to tell me. My health ultimately went downhill after completing a course in combatives which left my back in shreds. When my doctor advised me not to finish the training, I informed my drill sergeant in charge of the course that I would be withdrawing…after which I received a harsh talking-to and felt so guilty about being a “quitter” that I went back out there and worked through my injuries. I was so intent on not being viewed as a weak female that I fought my pain and refused to let a man steal my hooah. I was applauded for graduating with my combatives certification despite my health issues, but at what cost? I am now a disabled veteran and will be dealing with back problems for the rest of my life.
What I am trying to say is: women, get out there and be bad asses. Fight gender inequality and discrimination with all your might. Let us unite and show the world that we do not need separation between males and females to dictate what we can or cannot do. Captain Griest and 1st Lieutenant Haver are perfect examples of what it means to do just his. However, take care of yourself. Have respect for your body and listen to what it tells you. Finally, always remember that you do not need to compare yourself to a man (or anyone, for that matter) for your accomplishments to be noteworthy. You are strong and beautiful just as you are; embrace it.