-- Already a trailblazer, Army Captain Kristen Griest became the Army’s first female infantry officer when, on Monday, the Army approved her request to transfer from the military police unit she had been serving in.
Griest became well-known last year after she became one of the first three women to successfully complete the Army's elite Ranger School course.
“Like any other officer, male or female, that wants to transfer their branch, she took the opportunity and applied for an exception to the Army policy to transfer her branch from Military Police to Infantry,” said Bob Purtiman, a spokesman at Fort Benning, Georgia. Purtiman confirmed to ABC News that Griest's transfer request was approved by the Army on Monday and she became immediately eligible to serve in an Army infantry unit.
After successfully completing Ranger School last year, Griest returned to service at her home base at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The participation of women in the Ranger School course was part of the Army's research into whether women should be integrated into combat units. The other military services also conducted similar programs that were presented to Defense Secretary Ash Carter last fall.
In December, Carter ordered the military services to open up all combat specialties and branches to women, and since then, they have been implementing plans to do so.
Two weeks ago, the Army announced that 22 newly commissioned female officers from the U.S. Military Academy, college ROTC programs and Officer Candidate School had volunteered to serve in combat infantry and armor units. They are expected to join those units in 2017 after successfully completing the necessary training and requirements.
At the time, the Army said it was seeking applications from female officers already on active duty interested in transferring into infantry or Army units. An announcement was expected by the end of June as to how many transfer requests had been accepted.
On Thursday, Griest will graduate from the Maneuver Captains Career Course at Fort Benning. Passing the two-month leadership course is a pre-requisite for holding a command position. But Purtiman said other female officers from other Army branches have graduated from the course in the past.
Griest initially entered the course as a military police officer, but with the Army's approval of her transfer, her completion of the course will make her eligible for a command position in an infantry unit. Captains typically command companies consisting of between 100 and 150 soldiers.
Last August, Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate from Ranger School. Two months later, Army Reservist Maj. Lisa Jaster became the third woman to successfully complete the demanding course.
Griest's next assignment is not being disclosed.