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The first woman to make it through the Army's tough and rigorous Ranger training include a 26-year-old military police platoon leader from Connecticut. She deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. The other is a 25-year-old Apache attack helicopter pilot from Texas. On Friday, they'll graduate at Fort Benning, Ga. NPR's Tom Bowman has their stories.
TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Captain Kristen Griest deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2013, spending most of her time near the Pakistan border in one of the most dangerous parts of the country, a nest for Taliban fighters. It was a tough deployment. Her Fourth Brigade Combat Team, nicknamed Curahee (ph), lost eight soldiers while training and advising the Afghan army. Griest returned from Afghanistan with a Bronze Star, then she took on another challenge - she signed up for Army Ranger Training. The two-month course tests a soldier's ability to handle stress and exhaustion, completing the mission with little sleep or food. And the fact that Griest succeeded comes as no surprise to her high school track coach, Sean Mahon.
SEAN MAHON: She was a pusher. She pushed herself to her limits to what she could do.
BOWMAN: Griest ran the 1,600, was a state-qualified discus thrower and served as a team captain.
MAHON: She was able to just take the team under her wing, the rest of the girls, and just really kind of motivate them in her own way to just persevere, set goals and try to get better every single day.
BOWMAN: Another woman will become a Ranger with Griest, First Lieutenant Shaye Haver. Both women graduated from West Point, and Haver followed in the footsteps of her father, Chris, who also flew Apaches. Chris Haver said it was completely amazing his daughter completed Ranger school. He told the Associated Press he knows a lot of guys who went through the training and called it the toughest, most mentally demanding course they've been to. Lieutenant Haver has not deployed to a combat zone, but sources say many of the 19 women who attempted to make it through Ranger training had some combat experience, though in support roles like Griest - a military police officer, an engineer, an intelligence officer. Now the Army and the Marine Corps are deciding whether women can join frontline combat troops, the infantry, the armor - jobs that have been barred to women. A decision is expected sometime this fall. Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.