By Capt. Daniel Johnson
United States Army Reserve Command
U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster was 37 years old when she attended Ranger School. While the average age of attendees in the course ranges in the early 20s, that didn’t deter her, and in October of 2015 she graduated from the course.
She was the first woman in the U.S. Army Reserve to do so.
Four years later, her advice to others is simple.
“You have to be 'all-in,' ” said Jaster. “Be willing to give everything you have for the school and maintain your integrity. The first week is published therefore you know what to expect and how to succeed. Once you’ve passed the physical entrance exam (RAP week), you will need to have the mental toughness to push through conditions that could beat a lesser person down.“
“Do not let 'quit' in,” she continued. “That means once you allow quitting into your mind as an option, it will move in, live there, steal your motivation, and eventually defeat you from within.”
The all-in attitude that Jaster says is the key to success for Ranger school has also been tantamount to accomplishments in other aspects of her life. As a Citizen Soldier, she demonstrates that one can serve their country while continuing to have a civilian career.
In the past three years, Jaster has been a senior project engineer with Shell Oil Co. before becoming the director of civil engineering for M&S Engineering. She also has become a professional speaker with Leading Authorities, holding engagements across the country.
In the Army Reserve, she has been a battalion executive officer, an engineering team lead supporting the Iraqi Security Forces during Operation Inherent Resolve, and is now the brigade executive officer for the 420th Engineer Brigade, 416th Theater Engineer Command.
Throughout all of her experiences, her definition of leadership and what is expected of leaders has one constant: be consistent in your words and actions, and set the example for others to follow. This definition has served her well in both her military and civilian life.
“Everyone needs to be led as an individual, and each individual brings something to the fight as long as they are vested in the end state,” said Jaster. “A leader is someone who inspires those around them to be better versions of themselves.
“Traditionally,” she continued. “I have said that consistency is the most important aspect of leadership to ensure subordinates can perform in the absence of guidance,” After Ranger School, I have created the three C’s – Consistency, Communication and Competence. There are a lot of other aspects to being an effective leader, but these are necessary starting blocks.”
Jaster approaches her personal life with the same care as her professional one. A dual military couple, she and her husband, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Allan Jaster, have two children. Their support of each other and their children has been a critical factor in their accomplishments.
“Balancing the Citizen (employee, mom, wife, sister, daughter, and individual) with the Soldier is very complicated,” said Jaster. “I used to try to silo both aspects of who I am but found that so much bleeds over from one job to the other that I need to be fluid with those lines.
“What that means,” continued Jaster. “Is that Army conference calls can happen during cheer practice, and I might need to review proposals for work while I am in the field with the Army. It means being open and honest with my spouse, my military boss, and my civilian supervisor about what I can handle and what might be coming up. Having a strong support team with regards to extended family, friends and hired help is critical to ensure nothing at home drops.”
Jaster does not want her Ranger School experience to define her. Since her completion of the course, she has advised to not identify Soldiers and civilians by their race, sex or creed, but their skills, attributes and performance.
She created the hashtag #deletetheadjective for social media to emphasize her message, and throughout all of her speaking engagements, she has consistently stated the best teams are those with the highest level of competencies, not just a group identity. Being in the Army Reserve has allowed her to serve her country while creating awareness, and discussion, of the topic.
“Ranger school was just part of my path,” said Jaster. “It was not an end state. I have a larger public voice because of graduating from Ranger School. My true failure or success is what I decide to do with that voice. If I can live by the Ranger Creed and set an example which brings our community together for a smooth gender integration, then that is the goal I am striving for.”
Looking forward to the future, Jaster continues to strive for excellence. Whether in uniform or out, she has used her previous accomplishments to continue to fuel her drive to succeed and set the example for others to follow. Her discipline and dedication to her family, civilian profession, and military career is a standard she refuses to let falter.
“Ranger School does not make me a good or a bad officer,” said Jaster. “It does mean there are certain external expectations of me that were previously only self-imposed. This gives me an additional drive to continue to train martial arts, strength, endurance and tactics, even when time constraints make it difficult and my current job doesn’t require it.
“I am looking forward to being a battalion commander,” she continued. “After battalion command, I am not sure what the Army holds, but I plan to stay in uniform as long as I can.”