First female US Airman earns Ranger tab

An Air Force officer on Friday became the first woman of her branch to earn a Ranger tab, joining nearly 300 other Ranger-qualified Airmen.

First Lt. Chelsey Hibsch graduated from the Army Ranger Course at Fort Benning, Ga. Graduates' families and friends were there to watch the ceremony.

Maneuver Center of Excellence leaders, family and friends of Ranger Class 18-19 graduates watched them get pinned on Aug. 30. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Maneuver Center of Excellence leaders, family and friends of Ranger Class 18-19 graduates watched them get pinned on Aug. 30. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Ranger School is one of the Army’s most difficult leadership courses - only about half the candidates end up graduating the grueling 61-day course.

“Ranger School is truly not for the weak or faint of heart,” Air Force Security Forces Center Chief of Training Lt. Col. Walter Sorensen said in an Air Force news release.

Maneuver Center of Excellence leaders, family and friends of Ranger Class 18-19 attended graduation on Aug. 30. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Maneuver Center of Excellence leaders, family and friends of Ranger Class 18-19 attended graduation on Aug. 30. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

“It speaks well of all those who persevere to find that inner grit and motivation to push through all that Ranger School throws at them. The perspective tabbed Airmen earn serves them well when the mission gets challenging and others look to them to find a way,” said Sorensen, who is also Ranger-qualified.

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The Army began accepting Airmen at Ranger School in 1955. Sixty years later, in 2015, the military said women could attend Ranger School.

The Ranger Class of 2018-19 graduated on Aug. 30. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

The Ranger Class of 2018-19 graduated on Aug. 30. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Hibsch is now expected to serve as a flight commander in the 821st Contingency Response Support Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. She previously was assigned to the 374th Security Forces Squadron at Yokota Air Base in Japan.

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She attended the Air Force’s Ranger Assessment Course (RAC) and the Tropic Lightning Academy in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, in order to qualify for a spot at Ranger School.

Hibsch said RAC was “an unmatched learning experience on leadership and followership.”

Airmen from different career fields challenging themselves in the Ranger Assessment course, a combat leadership course that could lead to attending Army Ranger School. (U.S. Air Force)

Airmen from different career fields challenging themselves in the Ranger Assessment course, a combat leadership course that could lead to attending Army Ranger School. (U.S. Air Force)

RAC is intended to be stressful so Airmen will learn how to lead under pressure and in various circumstances.

Hibsch said lessons from RAC could be applied to Ranger School; she had gained an “understanding of how you function when you’re hungry, tired, wet, cold and worse, then you have to lead a team of individuals feeling the exact same way.”

She added, “You really find out a lot about your teammates and yourself in these stressful situations.”

Then-2nd Lt. Chelsey Hibsch speaks during a Women’s History Month luncheon at Yokota Air Base in March 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Machiko Arita)

Then-2nd Lt. Chelsey Hibsch speaks during a Women’s History Month luncheon at Yokota Air Base in March 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Machiko Arita)

The Airborne Ranger and Training Brigade public affairs officer, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Billings, explained the three phases of Ranger School.

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“In the Ft. Benning phase, the students become trained on squad operations and focus on ambush and recon missions, patrol base operations, and planning before moving on to platoon operations. In the Mountain phase, students develop their skills at the platoon level in order to refine and complete their training in Swamp phase. After these three phases, Ranger Students are proficient in leading squad and platoon dismounted operations around the clock in all climates and terrain.”

Air Force Materiel Command said Hibsch was the first female Airman to earn a Ranger tab, "but she won't be the last!"