29-year-old Sergeant 1st Class Janina Simmons became the first black female soldier to pass the grueling 62-day Ranger School on Friday. Simmons is based out of Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and is one of only a little more than a dozen women who have completed the intense training course. Simmons now has the right to wear the coveted black and gold Ranger insignia on her uniform.
United States Army Ranger School is a 62-day long combat leadership course teaching small-unit tactics, and is open to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in the U.S. Armed Forces. Most ranger candidates have to re-do at least one phase of the ultra-intense training, but Simmons made it through on the first try.
“I’m excited. It’s surreal,” Simmons said in a statement to ConnectingVets. “I’m humbled to be here…62 days of training and I made it the first time through.” She also talked about her commitment to encouraging others going through the course. “..I have to lead from the front. It’s good to speak from experience. When you have soldiers who say ‘I don’t know if I can do that,” I can say ‘well, I did it and so can you.”
As if being the first black woman to pass Ranger school wasn’t enough, Simmons used her graduation as the perfect opportunity to propose to her girlfriend, according to PopularMilitary. Simmons girlfriend played an integral role in Simmons’ success in the Ranger program, and Simmons wrote that her partner stuck with her through the intense process. “She stuck with me and was more than supportive!! I didn’t do that!! WE did that ❤️😍💍,” she wrote online, according to PopularMilitary.
Now that Simmons passed the grueling Ranger course and is engaged, she is ready to “sit down and re-sort her goals,” since passing Ranger school had, until now, been her ultimate dream.