Meet the First Enlisted Female Guard Soldiers to Graduate Army Ranger School

FORT BENNING, Ga. – Two Soldiers from the South Carolina and Pennsylvania Army National Guard are the first enlisted National Guard females to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School.

Staff Sergeant (SSG) Jessica Smiley, a South Carolina Army National Guard military police non-commissioned officer serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Sergeant (SGT) Danielle Farber, Pennsylvania Army National Guard 166th Regional Training Institute Medical Battalion Training Site instructor, completed the mentally and physically challenging school at Fort Benning on Dec. 13. The school prepares Soldiers to be better trained, more capable and more resilient leaders.

“My mindset going into this was to leave 100 percent on the table and never have a regret or look back and say, ‘I should have pushed harder, or I should have done something different,’” says SSG Smiley. “My mindset today is that I did just that. I gave 100 percent. I did everything that I could, and now here I am.”


SGT Danielle Farber of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and SSG Jessica Smiley of the South Carolina Army National Guard became the first enlisted National Guard female Soldiers to graduate U.S. Army Ranger School. (Photo by SGT Brian Calhoun.)

As the first female National Guard enlisted Soldiers to graduate from the school, SSG Smiley and SGT Farber join a small group of women who have earned a Ranger tab since the Pentagon lifted the ban on women serving in combat arms positions.

The others are: U.S. Army Captain (CPT) Kristen Griest and U.S. Army First Lieutenant (1LT) Shaye Haver, who, in 2015, became the first women to ever complete the school; 1LT Emily Lilly, who was the first female Army National Guard officer to graduate in 2018; and U.S. Army SSG Amanda Kelley, the first enlisted Soldier to graduate, also in 2018. However, SSG Smiley and SGT Farber do not think Ranger school is an accomplishment only they are capable of achieving.

“I don’t think it’s charting a course for other women because it’s something that we all have in us. We just haven’t been allowed to do it … There’s many women out there who are completely capable of doing it,” says SSG Smiley. “Do it … put in the hard work, put in the dedication to accomplish the goal.”

SSG Smiley and SGT Farber say the accomplishment took years of training and did not come without setbacks. SGT Farber has been working toward this goal since 2016 when she first tried for the Pennsylvania Ranger/Sapper State assessment program and was not selected. She tried again in 2018 and was selected, with approximately 10 other Soldiers. A year later, she left for Ranger school.

“Train hard for it,” says SGT Farber. “Come into it knowing you’re going to be doing things that every other male that comes through here has to do. Don’t come through here and expect any sort of special treatment because it won’t happen.”

Now that they have earned their Ranger tabs, SSG Smiley and SGT Farber hope to use the skills they’ve gained and help the Soldiers they work with and lead.

“This day to me is not the end of the school, but is the beginning of the new chapter in my career, not only for myself but for future Soldiers,” says SSG Smiley.

U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Russ Vickery says he is proud of what SSG Smiley and SGT Farber achieved.

“It is a big deal to be the first enlisted females in the National Guard graduating Ranger School … it’s groundbreaking,” he says. “We always tell [Soldiers] that they can do it. Physical size is not the limitation; it’s the amount of heart and soul that a Soldier brings.”

If you have the heart and soul to serve your State and your nation, the Army National Guard might be the perfect place for you. Most Guard Soldiers serve part-time and take advantage of fantastic education benefits to help pay for school. The Guard also offers training in more than 130 different careers, including fields like technology and networking, aviation, ground forces, and transportation.

Search the job board for details and contact a recruiter for more information.

From an original article by SGT Brian Calhoun, South Carolina National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in December 2019.

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Guard Recruiter Knows Price of Freedom

As a boy, Othello Smith fled Liberia with his father and some family members – on foot – to escape civil war in 1996. They took refuge in Sierra Leone, only to have civil war break out there, too, forcing the family to flee yet again – this time to Guinea.

Fortunately, Smith and his family were granted asylum as war refugees in the U.S. and settled in Rhode Island in 1998. He still hasn’t seen his mother, who’s in Liberia, since 1994. They’re hoping to connect with each other via Facebook when the technology becomes available to her.

Smith has seen what it’s like to live in a country with too much freedom – as in freedom to do anything you want without repercussions. In his experience in Liberia, “freedom is handing a gun to a 14-year-old kid, and he can do whatever he wants with that weapon. A young kid could see his uncle die in front of him because that is the freedom that is afforded in that county. There was nothing there to prevent that civil war.”

Smith is grateful that his new homeland has protections in place to prevent the kind of chaos he’s lived through, but still, freedom comes with a price that some Americans take for granted.

SPC Smith
SPC Othello Smith, Rhode Island Army National Guard recruiter.

That’s one of the reasons he joined the Rhode Island Army National Guard three years ago at age 28. The Guard also offered Specialist (SPC) Smith an expedited path to citizenship and education benefits to help him earn a degree in nursing and perhaps, later, pharmacy. As a first-generation American, he wants to set a good example for his two children that anything can be accomplished through hard work.

SPC Smith thought about going Active Duty but, “the National Guard just seemed to be the best fit, as far as accomplishing your goals, and still staying in the State, serving your country, and making a difference at the same time.”

His decision to join the military was met with some resistance from his father.

“Because of so many traumatizing things that we witnessed – I literally lived through two civil wars – my father, at the time, was totally against any military activity. I decided if I were ever to bear arms and get deployed, I will change the way soldiers behave toward citizens.”

Of all Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs), SPC Smith chose one of the loudest – 13B Cannon Crewmember – a choice that could have easily triggered bad memories from his youth. During one of his first Fourths of July in Rhode Island, he remembers that fireworks sent him under his bed, where his family found him screaming and crying.

SPC Smith says he got used to loud noises on his own and through his faith in God.

He was determined to be trained in “one of the hardest MOSs the military has to offer. I like to get my hands dirty and roll up my sleeves,” he says.

Over the last year, he has transitioned to recruiting for the Rhode Island Guard. One of his goals is to expose fellow Liberian immigrants – his State has one of the largest Liberian populations in the U.S. – to military life.

“There’s more to being in America than just being an employee. You have to be a difference-maker.”

To SPC Smith, “what the Guard stands for is making a change in people’s lives.” He has found both mentors and a family in the Guard.

“The military has wrapped its arms around me and showed me that there are people out there who are willing to help you in your career, help you with a family situation, and give you advice.”

When some of his recruits come in unsure of their physical capabilities, SPC Smith tells them, “an old guy like me went to basic training and did it, and you will be able to do it. You’re not there by yourself. They are people with you every step of the way.”

SPC Smith says he often gets a text or an email from his recruits thanking him for his support.

“The relationship that I build with my recruits is very important to me,” he says. “Changing lives, that’s the most important mission I’ve accomplished so far in the military.”

If you’re up for a life-changing experience, you’ll find it in the Army National Guard, where you’ll serve part-time and receive training in one of more than 130 careers in fields like Supply and Logistics, Technology and Networking, Ground Forces, and Engineering. For details on any MOS, search our job board, and contact your local recruiter for more information.

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