Maj. Lisa Jaster came to Fort Knox on June 26, to talk to 1st Regiment Cadet Leaders Course (CLC) Cadets and 1st Regiment Cadet Initial Entry Training (CIET) Cadets about her experience as one of the first three women to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger school.
When the opportunity arose to be apart the first Ranger class that was accepting women into Ranger School, Jaster admitted she did not want to go.
“I had a good job, I had been out of the Army for about seven years, I was a 37 year old woman with two kids. I said no.”
Ranger School is no easy task. Both Soldiers and officers undergo rigorous training prior to assignment that ensures that every Ranger is mentally and physically tough enough to uphold the standards of the program. The most recent stats reveal that Army Ranger school has a 40.5% graduation rate. On average Soldiers who complete the 61 day programs, without repeating a phase, will ruck 75 pounds for over 200 miles. However, stats reveal that 80% of Soldiers recycle. Meaning that they repeat at least one of the four phases throughout their training. This program is arguably the most rigorous program the Army has to offer, and since Rangers School conception, it has only been open to men.
Jaster was 1 of 19 women chosen to participate in the first integrated class, however she almost did not go. Jaster told Cadets how even though her Master Sgt., strongly expressed his support, it wasn’t until her husband reminded her of one of her own battle stories, that really made her change her mind. She shared that very story with Cadets.
When she was in charge of a platoon overseas she was tasked with sending three of her best engineers on a specialized mission. She expressed that her superiors trusted her judgment and she did not take this task lightly. One of the three best recommended engineers happened to be a woman.
“I promise this woman could fix a bulldozer with a pipe and some bubble gum, she was MacGyver good, but I was told I could not send her because she was a woman. So when my husband reminded me of this story, in front of my children mind you, and asked me ‘What if no else can do it?’ And told, ‘You were made to do it.’ That is when I made up my mind.”
Jaster despite age, gender and numerous counts of written and verbal backlash; Jaster without truly wanting to, changed the perception of women in the military as whole. It was not an easy journey. She went with 399 Soldiers, 19 of which were females. The women had to complete the same exact task as the men, and were judged on the same scale. Despite the rain, a torn ligament in her shoulder at one point, and having a sprained ankle at another, she prevailed. Out of the 399 Soldiers who entered, Jaster was one of 88 to graduate. She did admit however, that there were times she wanted to quit.
“No one gets through Ranger school without wanting to quit at least once, and I was no exception. Two women had already graduated ahead of me, the pressure to be the first woman graduate was gone, I could have quit.”
She told Cadets had it not been for her support system, she would have, but she persevered. Sixty-one days turned into 180, but she got the coveted Ranger tab.
“I wasn’t trying to change the Army, I wasn’t even fighting for women’s rights. I just wanted equal opportunities as my counterparts. I wanted to delete the verb. I don’t care if it’s the black Soldier, gay Soldier, transgender or even female Soldier. I just want the best of the best no matter what package they come in.”
Cadets were truly inspired and honored to hear her speak.
“I’ve decided that I either want to go to Sapper school or Ranger school. It’s something I want to do and until I do one of those things I won’t be satisfied. She has paved the way for other females to go in there and do the same thing. She has broken down the barrier of gender,” said Cdt. Summer Lancette, Clarkson University.
A true barrier breaker, she has inspired both women and men. She challenged all Cadets in attendance to break out of their comfort zone, be more integral Soldiers and pave the way for the future of Army.
“Like the major said, ‘don’t give up.’ Right now as a Cadet, I know that my female counterparts are just as good as me. As long as they can perform their job and get it done, there’s nothing to worry about,” said Cdt. Andrew McBride, University of Rhode Island.
Jaster has contributed so much to changing the rhetoric and stereotypes made towards women in the military, but recognizes that the fight is not over. She leaves the Cadets with one final statement.
“Your generation is smarter and more capable to enact change. Be that change, the future of the Army is in this room.’