Whenever she gets on an airplane, Army Reserve Lt. Colonel Lisa Jaster enjoys grabbing a chocolate bar, a Coke Zero and a copy of Harvard Business Review.
For the Army officer — notably, the third woman and first female reserve soldier to graduate from the Army’s Ranger School — the tradition is a welcome treat.
As she flipped through the magazine during a recent trip, Jaster was struck by a pair of stories she read on the intersection of diversity, equity and inclusion programs and the concept of “work life support.” Ultimately, she realized that talking about underrepresentation in an organization can have the power to actually make individuals feel more isolated.
“The work life support concept is, if we truly want to diversify, if we truly want to attract all potential, one of the best ways to do that is to support different lifestyles,” Jaster said in an interview with Military Times.
Now, Jaster is looking to reshape the conversation on what makes someone a qualified professional candidate in her upcoming book “Delete the Adjective,” a collection of vignettes she says depicts her trials and tribulations during her time at Ranger School and encourages people to not limit themselves with labels.
From her distinguished military career to the private sector, Jaster is no stranger to standing out in a crowded room.
After graduating from West Point in 2000, she was commissioned as an engineer officer and spent seven years active duty, a period that included deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Five years after leaving the service in 2007, Jaster joined the Army Reserve, working her way up through the ranks to her current role with Joint Staff.
The CrossFit and Brazilian jiu-jitsu-loving mom of two then set out to tackle something more challenging. Just as Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver — the first two women to complete the grueling Army Ranger School — did a few months before her, in 2015, Jaster also overcame gender and age norms to earn her Ranger tab from the elite infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Among other distinguished accomplishments, Jaster is a recipient of two Bronze Star and Meritorious Service medals.
Even during stints at Shell Oil Company and other engineering firms, Jaster said she regularly felt othered as one of very few women in a male-dominated field.
And while she always has been eager to inspire other women, Jaster never desired to be thought of solely by labels used in ways meant to diminish her accomplishments.
“I don’t want to be good for a female soldier, I just want to be a good soldier,” she told Military Times. “I don’t want to be fit for being middle age. I’m 45 years old. I just want to be fit.”
In spite of being thought of as different from her colleagues, or perhaps because of that thought process, Jaster eventually became a strong advocate for not letting others classify what someone else can accomplish.
“I want my peers who have never been in a women’s shoes to see that my experience wasn’t any different,” she said. “Being a woman at Ranger School didn’t make it any different than being a man at Ranger School. ... I want women who have never gone through something like this to see that, yes, it is really hard and it’s really frustrating but it was doable.”
Jaster’s upcoming book is scheduled to be released on Jan. 31 next year.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media