U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Lisa Jaster was the most unlikely of Ranger School graduates.
She made it through the Army’s most intense combat training course through sheer grit, determination, and drawing on her life’s experiences.
During an exclusive interview with WRBL News 3 this month, Jaster joked that she was the old lady of Ranger School back in 2015 when she was part of a pilot program that allowed women into the school for the first time.
One of the cadences soldiers chant during marches refers to an old lady. Jaster said she embraced that during her time in the school.
“I am an old lady. Walking down the street with a pack on my back and jump boots on my feet,” she said, laughing.
In 2015, Army reservist Jaster spent six months of her life in Ranger School before she earned the tab. She graduated two months behind Capt. Kristen Griest and Capt. Shaye Haver.
A 37-year old mother of two, Jaster was not a typical Ranger School student. Male students in their late 30s and some in their 40s have taken the course and passed. But it’s not many.
“Somebody needed to be living in the mud with the guys for six months to make that demographic say, ‘OK she did stay there six months,'” she said. “I am so glad it was me. My worst-case scenario was going home to a loving husband, two amazing kids, a great job, and a great house. … I was all in. Nothing was going to make me leave there short of catastrophic injury.”
Jaster, Griest, and Haver were part of 19 women to start the course in April 2015. Eight made it through the demanding physical assessment. All failed to pass the first phase of the course at Fort Benning, but Jaster, Griest, and Haver were allowed to start from Day 1. It was the same opportunity that 20 men got in the previous year. One man in their class was offered a Day 1 recycle but declined.
In July 2015, Haver and Griest passed out of the mountains on the first try. That left Jaster on her own for the remained of the school.
“I had the best case scenario where I got to go and stay because I wanted to be there,” Jaster said. “Nobody would ever hold it against me. It would never impact 75 percent of my world.”
She laughs now when people say she got extra chow and other advantages to pass.
“I was a 37-year-old woman running around the woods with 22-year-old men,” Jaster said. “Tell me who has the better metabolism. I didn’t lose as much weight because I was eating more. Trust me. If they had given me an extra MRE, I would have said my pack is too heavy.”
Jaster’s day job is working for an engineering firm in Houston. But she is physically fit and determined when the call came for women to test the Ranger School waters.
Though she was not among the first two — she did set her own firsts. She was the first mother to graduate — three have graduated since. And she was the first daughter of a Ranger to graduate.
Jaster will engage some of those who question whether or not she and the other women met the difficult standards.
“Some of my favorite social media comments are if your aunt could do it, why would a tough young gun want to do it?” Jaster said. “Well, because 25-percent of those tough young guns didn’t make it to breakfast on Day 1. Because I did it, it didn’t get any easier. Maybe its because your aunt is a tough old lady.”
Note: Series video editor Karien Graf