The Army’s Ranger school at Fort Benning, Georgia, holds a graduation every few weeks throughout the year, but Friday’s marked an historic moment: One of the graduates was an enlisted woman, the first enlisted woman to earn the coveted Ranger tab.
Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley, 29, is the first enlisted woman to earn her Ranger qualification, according to 1st Armored Division spokeswoman Lt. Col. Crystal Boring.
She was one of 127 students to graduate on Friday, according to Fort Benning spokesman Benjamin Garrett, out of 347 hopefuls who began the training in late July.
Kelley is a Fort Bliss, Texas-based electronic warfare specialist with the 1st Armored Division’s combat aviation brigade, Boring said.
She has previously been stationed in South Korea and deployed to Iraq, according to Newsweek, who first reported on her graduation.
An enlisted woman earning a Ranger tab marks another milestone in the Army’s integration of women into ground combat units. While an elective qualification, the rigorous two-month program, which focuses on small unit combat skills and tactics, carries an indelible level of respect from soldiers of all ranks and backgrounds ― and is practically expected for officers and NCOs serving in infantry and other ground combat units.
The first two women to graduate from Ranger school, now-Capts. Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver, came from the military police and Apache pilot communities, respectively, but parlayed their 2015 completion of Ranger school to transfer into the infantry branch and serve as some of the first female infantry company commanders in the 82nd Airborne Division.
Since officially opening in early 2016, hundreds of officers, NCOs and junior enlisted soldiers have joined the Army’s newly integrated infantry, armor and artillery specialties.
Women have also joined the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and while several have attempted the Special Forces qualification course to become Green Berets, none have so far completed it.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.