FORT BENNING, Georgia -- When Maj. Lisa Jaster walks across Victory Pond Friday at Fort Benning, she will secure her role in history as the first female Army Reserve officer to earn the distinctive black-and-gold shoulder tab. However, the 37-year-old engineer and mother of two children, aged 7 and 3, is the third female to graduate the grueling combat leadership course, joining the ranks of fellow West Point graduates and Active Duty officers Capt. Kristen Griest, 26, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, 25.
Jaster, an engineer for Shell Oil Co., and Army Reserve individual mobilization augmentee with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Huntsville, Alabama, embodies the dual nature of the leadership attributes and competencies of Army Reserve Soldiers, developed from both their civilian and their military occupations.
"Major Jaster represents the best of today's Operational Army Reserve -- trained, battle-tested and ready to serve whenever and wherever needed," said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, chief of Army Reserve and commanding general, U.S. Army Reserve Command. "The Army Reserve couldn't be more proud of this outstanding Soldier, and I know Shell Corporation, her civilian employer we share her with, is equally proud to have her in their organization."
Jaster's manager at Shell, Hans Hofland, agreed.
"We are very proud of Lisa and her ability to achieve such an extremely demanding goal," Hofland wrote in a statement released on Monday by company officials. "Her ability to do well under pressure is exemplified in this achievement and it comes as no surprise to us that she was successful."
A Soldier for Life, Jaster decided to join the Army Reserve because she missed the camaraderie she found in West Point and the Active Army.
"As a civilian, as a mother with a full time job, work/life balance is very challenging," Jaster said. "Then you add a second job that is much more than a part time job; it's a career, it's a calling, it's something you have to love to do. So it's not necessarily the time, but it's balancing your passions of being an individual, being a mother, being a wife, being an Army Reserve Soldier, and of course, doing your full time job."
To help find that balance Jaster, a cross-training enthusiast who practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, included her husband Allan, a Marine Corps Reserve officer and their two children in preparing for the physical demands of the course.
"At my age, I've done a few things, so I've got a deep well of motivation that I can dig down into," said Jaster, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. "Some people worry that having a family is a detriment or that will demotivate me, but I think having that will make me stronger and will push me though."
The Ranger course is one of the toughest courses in the American military -- 36 percent of students fail in the first four days. While being a parent of two children may not be rare for a Ranger candidate, Jaster chose to test her physical stamina, determination, and mental toughness at the age of 37, when the average age of those who complete the course is 23.
"I want [my children] to know that their parents weren't afraid to try hard and do something more," Jaster said. "It's a bigger deal than just the Jaster family and I want them to know that it's important to be part of the big picture," Jaster added. "It's important to try to do hard things, but it's also important to look at the big picture and see how you can add to society and maybe make the world a little bit better."