It has been over 18 months since the Pentagon declared that women should be allowed to serve in frontline combat and special operations positions in the military. Now, the U.S. is finally seeing its first two female candidates for elite special operations jobs in the navy.
This past June, two women were reported to be in boot camp as candidates for the Navy’s Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman Program. Due to security concerns, the names of these candidates cannot be disclosed. (Troops often need to guard their identities, as public attention could negatively affect their careers.)
We do know, however, that one of the women is in the training pipeline to become a SEAL officer, and that the other is on the path to becoming a Special Warfare Combatant Crewman (SWCC). Moreover, another woman has applied for a spot in the SEAL officer selection process for 2018. She is currently a junior in a college ROTC program.
“They are the first candidates that have made it this far in the process,” says Lt. Commander Mark Walton.
The Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army have seen multiple female candidates for their special operations positions, but have yet to announce a successful accession. Every potential officer must go through many physically and mentally demanding tests in their training, and few people make it past these rigorous exams.
The accession pipeline for the job, or the training program designed to provide understanding and knowledge of the practices and requirements for certification, includes several screening evaluations, recruit training at the Navy’s Great Lakes Illinois boot camp, and then Basic Underwater Demolition School Training (BUD/S).
This training is designed to be extremely physically and mentally demanding. Additionally, female candidates have to perform the same training as men. What makes this training so difficult is different for everyone.
“It could be the physical stuff, it could be mental, it could be medical. There could be a lot of different reasons,” says Walton.
The Navy says that it is ready to be inclusive, and has taken the proper steps to begin the smooth integration of women into the program. Its curriculums and policies have been thoroughly reviewed, and facilities have been evaluated to determine any changes that might need to take place in order to properly accommodate women. Minor changes were made, for instance, to lodging facilities and approved uniform items.
These women represent a major milestone for the Navy and for the military in general. The navy has previously allowed women into every career field except for the SEALs and SWCC community. There are about 1,000 SEAL candidates who begin training every year; however, usually only about 200-250 make it.
“It would be premature to speculate as to when we will see the first women SEAL or SWCC graduate,” points out Captain Jason Salata. “It may take months and potentially years.”
It is safe to say that everyone is rooting for these ladies, and hopefully we will see a woman SEAL and SWCC graduate this year.
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