Face the Army’s 1st female infantry officer

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Capt. Kristen Griest, one of the first women to earn the coveted Ranger tab, will once again make history by becoming the Army’s first female infantry officer. Griest is expected to graduate from the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course on Thursday wearing the distinctive blue infantry cord, officials confirmed to Army Times.

“Like any other officer wishing to branch-transfer, Capt. Griest applied for an exception to Army policy to transfer from military police to infantry,” said Bob Purtiman, a spokesman for the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, Georgia. “Her transfer was approved by the Department of the Army [on Monday] and she’s now an infantry officer.”

More women are expected to follow in her footsteps; the Army earlier this month announced that it had approved requests from 22 female cadets to enter as second lieutenants in the infantry and armor branches. Thirteen of the new officers will enter into the armor branch, the other nine will go infantry. After commissioning, the new officers must successfully complete branch-specific training before they will qualify as infantry and armor officers.

The service also opened an eight-week application window for female lieutenants who want to branch-transfer into infantry and armor. Qualified female lieutenants in year groups 2014 and 2015 of the Army Competitive Category, with second lieutenant dates of rank of Oct. 1, 2013, or later, can apply.

These moves are part of a multifaceted Army campaign to open all branches and specialties to women, as ordered by Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December.

Other initiatives include combat arms reclassification opportunities for enlisted women, and the opening of officer, warrant officer and enlisted assignment opportunities with the 75th Ranger Regiment, a unit previously closed to women.

The Army also has opened its storied Ranger School to all qualified soldiers, regardless of gender.

As it prepares to integrate its previously closed branches and specialties, the Army is using a “leader first” approach, with plans to put in place officers before assigning new enlisted soldiers to operational units.

This includes accessing female leaders from West Point, ROTC and Officer Candidate School this summer as the class of 2016 graduates.

On the enlisted side, at least three women have signed up to become infantry soldiers. They are not expected to start training until next year.

“An incremental and phased approach by leaders and soldiers who understand and enforce gender-neutral standards will ensure successful integration of women across the breadth and depth of our formations,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley previously said in a statement.

Carter on Dec. 3 announced his decision to lift all gender-based restrictions on military service. The move paved the way for women to serve in the previously all-male infantry, armor and Special Forces fields and opened nearly 220,000 jobs across the military.

“We’re not going to turn our back on 50 percent of the population,” Acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy has said. “We are opening up every occupation to women. I think that’s pretty historic.”

The Army has already opened more than 95,000 positions and nine occupations to women, including combat engineer (12B) and cannon crewmember (13B), with these moves occurring between May 2012 and October 2015.

Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver in August became the first women to graduate from Ranger School. A third soldier, Maj. Lisa Jaster, graduated two months later.

Griest, a 2011 West Point graduate, has since kept a low profile, shying away from media attention. That has not stopped fakers from using her name and photo on social media; a Facebook search yields at least a dozen fake profiles bearing her name. Some bear her name and Haver’s photo. Griest again declined interview requests.

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