In 2016 the Pentagon knocked down walls restricting women from key positions on the battlefield. Now combat positions including special ops are open to qualified candidates of any gender—including spots in elite teams like the Navy SEALs.
Military.com reported this week that a few women appear to be ready for the challenge:
Two women were in boot camp as candidates for the Navy’s all-enlisted Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman program, Naval Special Warfare Center Deputy Commander Capt. Christian Dunbar told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service in June.
Another woman, who sources say is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, has applied for a spot in the SEAL officer selection process for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, and is set to complete an early step in the pipeline, special operations assessment and selection, later this summer, he said.
Capt. Dunbar noted that the SEAL candidate will complete “a three-week block of instruction” but then will have to “compete like everyone else.”
Dunbar indicated that “everyone else” is the “160 [applicants] for only 100 spots.”
A lone woman candidate for Special Warfare Combatant Crewman (SWCC) had been screened and trained at the Basic Underwater Demolitions School located in Great Lakes, Illinois.
The women can’t be identified due to rules governing secure operations.
Military.com reports that this is a huge Navy milestone. While women have been involved in just about every other position available within the service, they’ve been completely shut out of SEALS and SWCC until now.
There are still hurdles for a woman going into special operations in any branch. Military.com notes that while a woman graduated Ranger school, no other female candidate has been able to complete special ops selection processes, which can be immensely grueling on a physical and psychological level. With the SEALs alone the attrition rate works out to three-quarters of the applicants who begin.
There’s no telling when a woman will actually become a SEAL, according to Naval Special Warfare Command Capt. Jason Salata. “It would be premature to speculate as to when we will see the first woman SEAL or SWCC graduate,” he told Military.com. “Managing expectations is an important part of the deliberate assessment and selection process; it may take months and potentially years.”