Women Still Unable to Break Glass Ceiling of Navy SEAL Qualifications

In the past three years, Military.Com has learned that the process of becoming Navy SEALs is grueling, but two women were selected to start it.

A Navy officer informed the board that there were two women in the Navy SEALs “pipeline” – one officer and one enlisted.

The spokesperson for Navy Special Warfare Command stated that the officer made an error in their statement when asked for further explanation. In contrast, three women serving in the Navy are currently working towards becoming Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen, and one officer is awaiting the results from the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection Board to determine if she will be given a SEAL contract.

In 2019 and 2020, two enlisted women were provided with SEAL contracts – a prerequisite to join Naval Special Warfare but just one phase towards becoming a SEAL – and commenced training but departed prematurely in the procedure. The spokesperson refused to reveal the specific phase at which they departed, citing the “authenticity of Naval Special Warfare Center courses and the confidentiality of its candidates.” The spokesperson further mentioned that the reason for not disclosing the stage at which they left was due to the “authenticity of Naval Special Warfare Center courses and the confidentiality of its candidates” being cited.

In 2015, the Department of Defense opened all military occupational specialties and ratings to women, allowing female troops to make inroads into nearly all areas of service. This progress was further reinforced in 2016 with the historic graduation of the first women from Army Ranger School.

However, the special operations community, with its physical requirements and fast-paced operations, has remained difficult to access for female soldiers.

In June, the Air Force celebrated the completion of its inaugural female special tactics officer. Females have been members of the 75th Ranger Regiment, and in 2020, the first female Green Beret successfully completed the training. Furthermore, three individuals have successfully completed the U.S. Army Special Operations Qualifications Course, and a female operator currently serves in Naval Special Warfare, as reported by Navy Capt. Jason Birch, the previous commanding officer of SEAL Team 10.

However, overcoming the barriers to advancement within the Navy SEALs has proven to be a challenging task.

In July 2021, the Navy witnessed the achievement of its inaugural female Naval Special Warfare operator – the individuals responsible for ferrying Navy SEALs and executing confidential operations – as she successfully finished the course and joined the select group of 13 women selected for Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman training thus far.

As per the Navy, even though they were not granted SEAL contracts, two individuals successfully finished the assessment and selection. Over the last seven years, a total of eight females have taken part in the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection procedure.

“According to an email sent to Military.Com by the spokesperson, the NSW force is aiming to professionalize and evolve by harnessing the diverse capabilities and talents of both civilians and female contracted service members, considering the rich history within NSW. However, neither civilians nor female contracted service members were selected.”

Prior to being offered a contract, candidates must meet certain medical, intellectual, and physical requirements in order to become a Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman or a Navy SEAL.

Once candidates attending the seven-week Special Naval Warfare Orientation in Coronado, California begin, they enter the “pipeline” where they receive a contract.

If candidates make it through SEAL orientation, they begin their specialized training, known as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S), while enlisted in the SEALs.

Those who want to become Navy SEAL Officers must endure the physically demanding two-week SEAL Selection and Assessment course, before the board decides whether they should be given a contract to enter BUD/S.

Birch informed the panel DACOWITS that the Navy is increasing outreach to potential pools of candidates in order to generate interest among female instructors in the Special Warfare Training Center.

Birch stated that the Navy intends to boost the number of female instructors from four to 11 in order to enhance the “downrange credibility” for women who may have an interest in Special Warfare and to promote the idea of women working alongside men, thereby “normalizing” it for students.

Regarding outreach, the organization is collaborating with women in the Navy and other divisions to attract potential candidates, he mentioned.

Birch stated, “We can’t have female SEALs because somewhere it has started to go out of industry, yet we don’t have any.”

Patricia Kime can be contacted at Patricia.Kime@Military.Com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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