First African American Woman Graduates from US Army Ranger School

Sergeant 1st Class Janina Simmons became the first female African American soldier to graduate from US Army Ranger School on Friday, April 26. Simmons completed the 62-day training course and will join more than a dozen women in wearing the coveted black and gold Ranger tab, WBBM radio first reported. The 29-year-old, who is based out of Fort Jackson, South Carolina, told the station that graduating was a “surreal” feeling. “I'm humbled to be here… 62 days of training and I made it the first time through," Simmons said.

Simmons is one of several women who have graduated from the school, according to WBBM radio. Staff Sergeant Amanda Kelly became the first female, non-commissioned officer (NCO) to graduate from US Army Ranger School in 2018. Simmons told WBBM that it is important to have more female NCOs to pave the way for future soldiers.

"I need more NCOs to get out there… 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,'" she said. The North Star reached out to Simmons for comment but did not hear back in time for publication. Many congratulated Simmons on her milestone on social media.

“Congratulations to SFC Janina Simmons, the first African American female Soldier to graduate from #RangerSchool. #ArmyRecruitingOhio,” Columbus Army Recruiting Battalion tweeted on Friday, along with photos of Simmons at the graduation ceremony. “Congratulations to Army Sergeant First Class Janina Simmons on becoming the first African American woman to graduate from the US Army Ranger School, one of the toughest combat courses in the world. #HerStory #BlackHistory #USArmy,” tweeted New York State Representative Adriano Espaillat.

“Sergeant First Class Janina Simmons will become the first Black woman to graduate from the US Army's Ranger School, one of the most grueling and notorious courses in the military. Congrats, SFC Simmons! GO ARMY!” tweeted Charlotte Clymer.

Simmons has had many firsts in her career. In December, she became the first woman in history to win first place in the Bataan Memorial Death March qualifier race in Fort Jackson, according to a statement from the US Army. The sergeant completed the 16-mile march in two hours and 52 minutes while carrying 25.8 pounds in a rucksack.

Fort Jackson Sports Coordinator Cindi Keene praised Simmons on her qualifier win. "[Simmons] is really down to earth," Keene said in a statement. "She's an awesome soldier."

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.