WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 24, 2015) -- For the first time in Army history, two women were among Soldiers who received the coveted Ranger tab Aug. 21.

The two female Ranger School graduates were 1st Lt. Shaye L. Haver and Capt. Kristen M. Griest, both also graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

"You're leaving Victory Pond here today with a small piece of cloth on your shoulders," said Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, speaking at the graduation on Fort Benning, Georgia, and referring to the Ranger tab. Miller serves as commander, Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning.

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, other distinguished guests and former Rangers, as well as Family and friends of the graduates also attended the event.

Milley said Ranger School is the Army's "most grueling" ‪leadership course, in a statement released Friday. The course no doubt stretched all 96 graduates "to and beyond their physical and emotional limits," he said.

"I'm proud of everything each of these Rangers has endured and I am confident they will go on to serve our Army and our nation. For those who have made it through this arduous course, you know that there is only one standard: The Ranger standard."

Addressing the graduates, Miller said, "You carry the title of Ranger. From here on out, your subordinates, your peers, your leaders, will always expect you to be able to handle the toughest tasks.

"They and your country will expect you to move further, faster and play harder than any other Soldier," he said.

Haver, 25, an AH-64 Apache pilot, said she wanted to go to Ranger School because she knew it would make her a better leader for her Soldiers. She is assigned to the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.

Griest, 26, a military police platoon leader, is assigned to the 716th MP Battalion at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

"I knew how badly I wanted to go [to Ranger School] when I was a second lieutenant, before I became a platoon leader," said Griest during an Aug. 20 press conference. "I was hoping to go to this course because it is the best training the Army can provide, and I wanted to have that training before I had a platoon."

Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis H. Arnold Jr., command sergeant major for the Airborne Ranger Training Brigade, also spoke at the graduation.

There were 364 Soldiers who started class 8-15 "and 96 stand before you," Arnold said. Of those Soldiers, only 40 went straight through. "What a testament to the difficulty of this course."

This course was designed to last 62 days, but many "chose the extended route," he said, noting that many have been here more than 120 days because they were recycled. "I guess some people just need a challenge or they just enjoy our hospitality here in the Airborne Training Brigade," he quipped.

Nineteen women and 381 men began Ranger Class 06-15, April 20. Eight women successfully completed the Ranger Assessment Program; however after RAP week, the course has three phases: A Darby or patrolling phase, a mountain phase and a swamp phase.

All the women were recycled after the Darby Phase and into Class 07-15 for a second attempt at patrolling. After the second Darby Phase attempt, five were dropped from the course and three were given a day-one recycle into Ranger Class 08-15, starting the course again June 21.

The three women met the standards of the Benning Phase and moved on to the Mountain Phase, July 10. All three women passed the knot test, military mountaineering skills assessment, the foot movement up Mount Yonah, and were given opportunities to lead patrols. One woman recycled into Ranger Class 09-15 to start the Mountain Phase again, Aug. 9.

Haver and Griest received a passing grade in the mountains during platoon-level combat patrols and moved on to the Swamp Phase, Aug. 1. The two women also met the standards of the Swamp Phase, proficiently leading waterborne platoon-level combat patrols.

Miller said that retired Sgt. Maj. Bob Spencer was guest speaker when he graduated as a Ranger in class 11-85, 30 years ago. The general pointed out the sergeant major in the audience. He said he still recalls what Spencer said during graduation.

Miller said Spencer's remarks ring true today as they did then, and probably should be said at every graduating Ranger class. "He said, 'you have people that will question the standards of Ranger School. When they question those standards, what I ask you to do is invite them back to Fort Benning and revalidate their tab.' To date, we've had zero takers on people who want to revalidate their tab."

Miller said the Ranger Course hasn't gotten any easier over the years. In fact, it might even be harder, he said, remarking that his class had 24-hour breaks between phases. That's not the case today.

Ranger instructors are some of the hardest working people, putting in "30-hour days," he said.

Then, addressing the graduates, Miller told them: "At some point during this course, you found a moment of vulnerability where you weren't the best you wanted to be. But [it's] what you do with that moment of vulnerability -- are you able to overcome, persevere, no matter how hard the task may seem. And as importantly, are you able to help the team overcome and persevere and accomplish their assigned mission?"

Rangers are a special group of Soldiers who share the traits of "trust, dependability and reliability," he said.

Miller said that on the Internet, there has been discussion about standards at Ranger School having been lowered to accommodate the women participants. He said that talk isn't true.

"Standards remain the same. The five-mile run is still five miles. The times don't adjust. A 12-mile road march is still 12 miles," he said. "The required rucksack weights remain the same. Ranger students must pass patrols and peers. The mountains are still here. The swamps remain intact. There was no pressure from anyone above me to change standards."

Since Ranger School opened in 1950, only 77,000 Soldiers have earned the Ranger tab. Of the 4,057 Soldiers who attempted the course in 2014, just 1,609 tacked on the tab.

The Army plans to run another Ranger School assessment in November which also will be open to women.

(ARNEWS Reporter J.D. Leipold contributed to this report.)