Most people limit themselves to their labels. They embrace barriers based on the box that society puts them in but your adjectives aren’t your destiny. My next guest proves your merit should always trump your labels. She didn’t confine herself to the adjectives of middle-aged or female, instead, she became one of the first three women to graduate from the United States Army Ranger Program.

Welcomed back to the Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host Hussein Al-Baiaty and my next guest is Lisa Jaster, who is here with me to talk about, and celebrate her new book, Delete the Adjective. Let’s flip through it.

Hello everyone and welcome back to the show. I’m Hussein Al-Baiaty and I’m joined today with my friend, Lisa Jaster, who just launched her new book, Delete the Adjective. I’m super excited for you guys because this book is amazing. It’s easy to read, it’s easy to follow but it has a very deep and unique story, which I’m super excited for. Lisa, thank you so much for joining me today.

Lisa Jaster: Thanks for having me, Hussein.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, absolutely. So Lisa, you know, we have an amazing audience who I feel like deserve to get to know you a little bit on a deeper level and I feel like you know, always want to start these episodes by getting people to share a little bit about you know, you, your upbringing, your background, sort of where you grew up, the people that perhaps influenced you. I know your father played a role in your upbringing and all these good things. So can you share a little bit about your background?

Lisa Jaster: Yeah, so I guess starting from now and moving back, I am an Army reserve officer. I’m married to a Marine Corp reserve officer. We both own our own businesses and are attempting to be entrepreneurs. We do have two kids and we live in Texas. How I got to where I am now is I grew up in a small town called Plymouth, Wisconsin and I read this book called, In the Men’s House.

Of course, now that I’m about to publish my own book, I really understand how influential a good book can be and my grandmother had bought it. It was written by a woman named Carol Barkalow and she was one of the first women to graduate from West Point. When I read the book, my father was a class of 1968 West Point grad. Carol was class of 1980 and I thought, “Wow, this sounds really, really hard. I want to do this.”

And my mother, while she was raising me and I talk about this a lot in the book, is she used to say, “Don’t ever look back on your life and say I should have, I could have or I would have” and so, starting in 7th grade, when I read this book, I kind of lived by that mantra. So I’ve gotten myself in a lot of trouble to, on one extreme or the next, to include signing myself up to be one of the first women to attend and ultimately graduate Army Ranger School.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: So let’s go ahead and talk about that a little bit. Could we dive in, what was that process like? You know, signing up, where did the fear come in and then starting Army Ranger school because I feel like you know, you spoke about this a little bit, you were one of very few women that have gone through and actually graduated at around the time that you started. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

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Becoming an Army Ranger

Lisa Jaster: Yes, of course. In 2014, I had been an active duty soldier for seven years from 2000 to 2007 and then I had a five-year break in service. In 2012, I got back in the Army and in 2014, there was a discussion about whether or not all branches of service, all MOSs, military occupational specialties, should be open to women and part of that was opening up the Army’s premier in leadership course called Ranger School to women and should some women succeed, that would very much push the discussion into whether or not women should be allowed into the course.

I actually got talked into it. I like to say, I got goaded into it by Sergeant Major Robbie Payne, who was somebody I was working with in the US army reserve. I had gotten back into the reserves in 2012 and he, in partnership with my husband, kind of pushed my buttons and the short version of it is that they basically said, “You know, be the change you seek, right?”

You want all the opportunities in the world open up to whoever has the best resume or should be, based on merit in those positions and I had the opportunity right then and there to prove that just because I was a woman, I shouldn’t be disqualified from a military leadership school and so in October 2014, I put my name and social security number into the Internet hat, shall we say? And ultimately became one of the 19 women who attended the first integrated Ranger School class in 2015.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Absolutely incredible. I know you drop us into—like, when I started your book, I was immediately hooked because, you’re literally army-crawling, dragging yourself through the mud, right? And you’re on this like, I guess, I mean, forgive my lack of terms here when it comes to military but you’re literally just army-crawling through the mud, trying to do this mission.

But then you were supposed to listen in and kind of get some intel, however, you kind of revealed yourself and then from there, there was like the being screamed at in your face and all these things but you also kind of paused. I’m seeing this chaotic event kind of unfold in my imagination and here you are getting yelled at and then you have this pause and moment, where you thank this person that’s going off on you because they’re teaching you something.

I really want you to kind of unfold that story for me real quick and our audience and just kind of take us through, you know, the absolutely difficulties and challenges that you faced during that time.

Lisa Jaster: That story is such a great example of my attitude at Ranger School or at least, what I tried to maintain as an attitude at Ranger School and that was to realize the opportunity I had. Now, when you’re the first in anything or when you’re the odd man out in any environment, it is too easy to be the victim or to feel like, “Well, I’m getting my butt chewed because I’m a woman” or “I don’t know what I’m doing” or you know, really let that internal voice bring negativity.

And throughout my experience at Ranger School, I would look up and I actually wrote that in my cover, in my patrol cap that we wear, our soft baseball cap looking thing. I wrote in there, look up, so I always remembered and I would walk around the woods or I would look at the faces of the men because at one point in time, I was the only woman left at the school.

The other two had graduated and I would look at the faces of the men and tell myself, “Wow, I get to be here” or “I would have missed this sunrise” or “I would have never been able to walk in the Appalachian Trail had I not come to this school” and this specific story you were talking about, I’m getting reamed because I was doing a reconnaissance mission and by definition, a reconnaissance mission is to go and recon an enemy position and then leave without ever being noticed to report intelligence to your higher headquarters for follow on missions, so you know how to react to this enemy.

Well, me being an outdoors woman, I love hiking around in the woods and I stalked up to a very, very close position as if I was out in the woods with my husband bow hunting and I wasn’t actually busted by the enemy but the RI, the Ranger Instructor kind of busted me out because in reality, the people I was spying on would have been at a higher state of alert and would have noticed somebody crawling that close to their position.

And as he was lecturing me and explaining to me all the ways I messed up, I started smiling, which of course, makes an instructor mad because he’s wondering, “Why are you smiling? You don’t respect me? Is this just a joke to you?” and had to explain to him that this was the most fun and most educational experience I’d had in the military, in years, in years and he was like, “Uh, so you’re thanking me for yelling at you?” I’m like, “Yes Sergeant, I am.”

Hussein Al-Baiaty: How did he feel about that?

Lisa Jaster: I think he was confused because I don’t think that that had ever happened at Ranger School, much less, having somebody who was a first and coming there with the attitude like, “Oh my God, I get to be here” not “This is going to suck or how hard is this?” But literally, my attitude was, “I get to be here.” He wanted to yell at me more but he wasn’t getting the reaction he expected. So he just said, “Okay, get out of my face.”

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Get on with it, right? That’s amazing and what an amazing attitude to have because these are the things that we, I guess, you know, for me, reading that and learning from it, you know honestly, I think back when my dad was trying to discipline me, right? In some way, shape or form in the idea that you know, he really wanted me to for example, like, not give in too much into the norms and the culture around me.

Because for example, like you know, I grew up Muslim so we didn’t drink, right? And so for him, it was just like, “Look, like, doing that kind of stuff is not necessary, is not, not going to be you, that’s an option that you have but you got to think about what does that do to your body? You know, let’s think about that for a moment” but the way he did it, it made me always, you know, as I was hanging out with my buddies or whatever in high school or later on in college, those conversations were so in-depth, right?

Like, we really would have a deep conversation, he would allow me to ask questions. You know, whether he did it like from faith or whether he did it just from like looking out for me as a father, there was times where he would, you know, get angry or get frustrated but I looked at those moments and I remember them as being – it make me smile today. Like you said, they make me smile today because those moments that I had with my father were so embedded with what he was trying to really teach me in that millisecond, that decision.

It’s like, “Do I take this drink or do I put it down?” and every time I think about that I hear his voice, right? And so those movements that you know for the people that are trying to discipline us into thinking a certain way and if you are grateful in that specific moment, in of itself, it’s so empowering. Of course I was young, so I didn’t know what the hell was going on but in your scenario, you’d gone through these types of training sessions before but in that moment for you, you felt the sense of gratitude, which I feel like just shuts down anybody.

I mean like, when you’re just grateful for something like that the emotions kind of just run away, but I do want to talk a little bit about this crazy eight. I do want to mention to our audience too that during your time at Ranger School, you basically had this little notebook that this is basically how you wrote your book. So can you talk a little bit about that and then talk about the crazy eight?

Lisa Jaster: So part of ranger school is, for anyone who is unfamiliar with the military, is testing leaders to see if they can act appropriately, keep their bearing in very stressful situations. Obviously, they can’t beat us up and shoot live rounds at us, so we shoot fake rounds and we have fake artillery but we know it’s fake. The students knew that stuff was fake.

So they have to get us to that place of stress some other way and they do that through extreme physical exertion, hiking through the woods with an 80-pound rack on our back. The average Ranger School student in a nine week period walks about 200 miles and their packs, our packs weighed anywhere between 60 and up to a hundred pounds, depending on what we’re carrying on in any particular day.

So we’re physically exerting ourselves, we have minimal calorie intake, we eat two meals at about 1,200 calories a day and we usually eat them dinner would be at three in the morning and breakfast would be at four in the morning and then you don’t eat for the rest of the day while you’re in the field and then so you’re physically exerted.

You’re calorically deficient and you’re not sleeping during that 3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. period, you’re eating and getting your sleep and trying to setup for the next day. Again, that’s while you’re in the field, so you’re stressed and exhausted. Well, you can get in trouble for falling asleep or not paying attention or missing details when you’re out on a mission.

So if you want to pass, you want to graduate, you have to keep your senses as tuned as you can under those conditions and one of the ways that most of the students did that is you wrote everything down. So we wrote our mission information down, I even wrote information about the people that I was sharing a foxhole with, so that if they tell me their life story one night and then the next night we’re in a foxhole together again, I wasn’t like, “Are you married? Do you have kids?”

I wasn’t offending them by not remembering our deep conversation the night before. So I ended up taking extremely thorough notes the entire time we were out there and most people did and a lot of the notebooks would include things like, just to stay awake, people would write down foods that they wanted to eat when they got home or what kind of sheets they were going to buy because all they could think about was sleeping.

And so your notebooks are these crazy muddle of anything that goes through your head. Like you said, I ended up writing my book off my notebooks and letters I wrote home but part of that too was I had almost an entire notebook on the crazy eight and 19 women started their first ever integrated Ranger School class in April of 2015.

After the first week, it’s called the Ranger Assessment Phase, it’s actually four days long, only eight of us were left and so during the actual active course, we didn’t really get to know each other because we were separated in three different units and in the three companies, we were each divided in different squads.

So we really didn’t get to know the other women but there was a break between phases and we all had to live together because there’s army rules that when you’re not in training, the genders must be separated. So the eight women suddenly were sleeping in four bunk beds together and I got to know these ladies in a really short period of time and in a very stressful situation.

I was really worried because I worked as an engineer in the Army, which is predominantly male, I had—the Army’s predominantly male and then engineers are a more male-centric discipline, then I worked at project management at Shell Oil company and with other engineering firms and which is also in like I said earlier, engineering is a very male dominant environment. So I had never been in a room with seven other females and there were seven other females all trying to be firsts.

So I was really, really worried that we were going to just clash and bump heads and be hyper-competitive and it turned out I felt like I was in an alpha female sorority. It was absolutely fantastic. These women ended up being the type of people that in the military—one of the biggest compliments you could give someone is to tell them that you would share a foxhole with them, meaning that you know that you’d be safe with them in a combat environment.

There were seven other women that without a doubt to this day at any given point in time, I would share a foxhole with them.

Crazy Eight

Hussein Al-Baiaty: A part of me feels like they feel the same way about you because you all share that moment in time again, that capturing this energy if you will in a bottle, right? Now, you get to carry these experiences, the memories, the bond really throughout your life, right? You could feed from it. Tell me, are the crazy eight still hanging out or what’s your deals now?

Lisa Jaster: Every once in a while, there will be a group email or a text message but we’re also on some of the same like Facebook chat groups and three of us who actually graduated out of those eight, we do keep in touch a little bit better just because there is that tie holding us together but now that we’re talking about it, I probably need to reach out to those ladies because those are people I don’t need to lose out of my life.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: So I am sure it was like an encouraging time as y’all are push one another and really help one another kind of get through these tough challenges. What was one thing you really learned from one of these amazing eight other individuals, women, that were going through this time? What was something that you picked up that you’re like, “Man, I am going to carry that” I am going to carry that through this, not only through this challenge but maybe my life, is there anything that stood out to you?

Lisa Jaster: There was a point in time when we were all breaking the ice. It was the first time we were all together and able to speak openly and everybody was kind of telling their stories and it was me and one other girl that were significantly older than the rest of the women. So we were in our mid-30s and everyone else was nowhere near us, let’s just say that and so myself and the other woman, older woman were in a little bit more of a listening phase, just because that is part of being a different demographic.

Well, she started jumping in. She had more in common with some of the ladies and then I just would ask a few very pointed questions and one of the women asked me on our way out to dinner that night or not really ask but stated, “I bet you were a badass when you were younger” and it really stuck out to me about how you present yourself and the idea of really this book like I don’t want to be a badass when I was younger.

I want to still be a badass, so how do I make sure my sword stays sharp? How do I make sure that it wasn’t—it isn’t a, “I bet you were something when you were younger.” It’s a, “Wow, you were something then and you’re a different something now but you’re still pretty amazing” and it almost forced me to look in the mirror and think, “I can’t age out of this. My body is going to break. You know at some point in time, I am not going to be able to deadlift as much or run as fast, so how do I continue on this progression of always trying to be the best version of myself?”

Hussein Al-Baiaty: That’s very powerful and that is a very powerful thing to take on with you, right? I love that that time and space also, you know, like I feel like in a way pump more energy into who you can become, right? Just kind of having a shift in perspective a little bit, I love that. What was the most difficult part would you say like about writing this book? Because writing a book is a difficult feat in it of itself.

But there is always moments I feel like in the writing journey that authors tend to especially ones telling stories like yourself, tend to get vulnerable, go to a space where like, “Man, this is like dragging through that mud.” Did you have any of those moments in time where while you were writing the book and what pushed you through?

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Writing the Book

Lisa Jaster: Very interesting question, honestly. So my original manuscript is a complete vomit of everything and—

Hussein Al-Baiaty: As it should be.

Lisa Jaster: Yes. Yes, I think it should be especially when you are telling a story and then you decide what parts of your story are the most critical to get your point across. In that original story, I put a lot of who I am and how I got to be who I am into the original writing, and what I hadn’t realized was I am completely comfortable sharing everything I can about myself, who I am, how I came to be.

I am unlike a lot of people who have been firsts, I had a great life. I’ve had a great life, I wasn’t—I didn’t have a whole lot of negativity to overcome from my youth or any of that. So I thought this was great to put out there because a lot of times, I read these stories of successful people and it seems like you’ve got to pull yourself up from your bootstraps, which means you have to be in the gutter to be able to rise above your past.

Well, I don’t have that. I had a great childhood. I have a great family and so I wanted to tell people the story too that my family is amazing and what ended up happening is I went to my family and they didn’t want their story shared. So there was members of my family who really took offense to how I was describing the details of my childhood because I was also putting their childhood or their earlier years out there and that isn’t my story to tell.

So I wrote all of this in 2016 and sat on it until, I mean, it is 2023 now, I sat on it for all those years because I didn’t know how to tell my story without telling theirs and that could potentially be unfair to them. So I think that was the hardest part about actually bringing my book to the finish line.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, that deciding what stories go in and what actually makes it and then you layer that of course with how other people feel. It is a common challenge actually for many authors and I thought of myself there a few times in writing my book and so yeah, it is always interesting to me though what does come up for certain authors and what actually makes them pivot a little bit or go deeper into one story or not.

That’s really powerful. What would you say is the most unexpected thing happened while writing a book?

Lisa Jaster: The amount of people who actually have wanted a copy, even people don’t know. So you know, when in the process of trying to do some PR work and get the book launch out there, complete strangers are reaching out saying, “Hey, I want a signed copy” or “I want this” and when it’s your own story, it doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal.

When somebody contacts you and, “Hey, I’ll pay extra” or “Hey, I’d like to come and meet you” or “Hey, can I talk to you about this?” that’s really shocking. It is also a realization as I mentioned earlier about In the Mens House, how impactful a well-written story can be.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I feel like especially from your perspective, right? Think, you know, again like you just said earlier like the people we look up to the most, right? Especially doing high endurance or military whatever and sometimes they share their stories and they talk about their childhood and it was just like a disaster, right? That was their way of kind of piecing things together because they knew they can go through difficult times but they needed to sort restructurize themselves if you will.

Terrible use of word but you know what I am trying to say here and I think like for me personally, I started running like crazy in 2020 while I was writing my book, infusing those two together that was probably the most I exerted myself physically. I started running just like six, seven miles a day and then I would come back home and write but I also felt this lift, a weight lifted because I was sharing my story so deeply with just the computer, right?

I am just getting it out but I have never gotten it out to this level. I actually was a mess, I was in a refugee camp for like a good portion of it. So just talking about it in a way that I just wanted to share that story in the most deep way I can and then like later added it and refined it of course but for me, the physical exertion actually kind of matched that sort of cathartic feeling I was really enjoying and I just felt every day, I just felt lighter and lighter that I could go further.

Perhaps my endurance was building but you know, metaphorically I just felt lighter and lighter. So I love that, I love that the act of writing does something unexpected to the author as well and it sounds like for you, there is a lot of these people who seek individuals like you because I feel like not only they want to know your story but I feel like there’s a connection, right? There is a deeper connection.

That you don’t have to come from a messed up traumatized childhood to do something great with your life, right? A lot of people like I just feel like sometimes when I share my story go like, “Oh, I have never gone through anything crazy like that, like why would I ever share my story?” and it’s like but you don’t need to go through something crazy to share your story. You are an amazing human being, you know?

So I love that perspective but do you know further why you think people are seeking you out to have these types of conversations with you?

Lisa Jaster: You know, I recently heard some people cannot be what they cannot see and I think that is such an interesting phrase because I’ve never felt that way, so I didn’t empathize with that but it is very, very true. It is hard to be something that no one has tried to be before but with my story, it is not about a woman who is trying to go to ranger school or to break barriers.

The story is about someone who’s been put in buckets, hence the terminology with the adjectives, someone who has been put in buckets that they’re not comfortable in and I’ve never been comfortable being referred to as a female soldier because soldiering isn’t about gender or I mentioned it earlier about being a badass for lack of a better term, I am not older and I don’t want my age to limit how people view me.

I still want to be tough as woodpecker lips and somebody that others want to revere and respect and it might not be for the same reasons as I grow and change but it’s definitely for that. So I think the reason why the story is being accepted by more people than I thought it would is because that it’s not about ranger school. It is about being a person who has been put in a bucket because whether it’s society, whether it’s other people or whether it’s themselves, they are stuck in a bucket that they’re not happy in.

They need to know that other people are willing to jump outside of their adjectives, outside of their descriptors and become the person that they want to be who is on the inside.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, that’s so powerful. That really leads us to my final question to you, which is if you were to give one lesson away from the book or hope the idea that someone’s reading your book and is now done put it down, what do you hope that they walk away with? You know, what is that feeling you want them to really walk away from the book with and understand?

Lisa Jaster: I want them to see people and allow themselves to be surprised by them. I am five foot four, 140 pounds. I like to think I am not ugly, I like to think I don’t look like a dude but I like to do dude things. So I want somebody to look at me and be happy when they hear, “Oh, she likes to hunt and she does Brazilian Jujitsu and she likes to lift weights but she also likes to wear a dress and go out to dinner with her husband and teach her daughter how to properly put on makeup.”

So I want people to close that book and be introduced to someone who believes in deleting the adjectives. Therefore, they are going to move forward and see a person and say, “Okay, I see what I see. I wonder what’s behind the surface.”

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Lisa, what an honor and a privilege to have met you today genuinely. I love this sort of you know, disconnection who you think you can be, what you are and all of these things and what buckets you’re in, all the way to this transition of just really becoming who you want to become and just focusing on that and this idea of unravelling yourself. I love that so much, you really brought it forth with your book.

I highly, highly recommend it. I am grateful for your fortitude and your service and the life you lead. I’ve definitely learned so much from you today. I mean, I will continue reading your book out throughout the week and really try to finish it because I felt so drawn to it and it brought some memories up for me and so I learned so much. So thank you for sharing your stories and your experiences.

The book is called, Delete the Adjectives: A Soldier’s Adventures in Ranger School. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you?

Lisa Jaster: The best way to find me is on any social media. I just go by Lisa A. Jaster. I do have a Twitter and a Facebook page that’s called Delete the Adjective and those are great resources to find me as well.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Amazing, you can also find the book on or Barnes & Noble and so on. You all have a fantastic rest of your day. Again Lisa, thank you for joining me. I had a fantastic conversation.

Lisa Jaster: Me too, thanks a lot, Hussein.