The Navy has the first female applications for the post of SEAL Officer, Special Boat Units

More than a year after a Pentagon tenure opened previously closed ground combat and special operations positions to women, officials say the Navy has its first candidates for its more elite special war roles .

Two women were in training camp as candidates for the Navy’s Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman program, Naval Special Warfare Center deputy commander Captain Christian Dunbar told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on women in service in June.

Another woman, who sources say is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, applied for a place in the SEAL agent selection process for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins October 1 and is on the point of completing a first stage of the pipeline. , evaluation and selection of special operations, later this summer, he said.

“It’s a three week block of instruction,” Dunbar said. “Then the [prospective SEAL officer] will compete like everyone else, 160 [applicants] for only 100 seats. “

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Naval Special Warfare Command spokesperson Captain Jason Salata confirmed to Military.com this week that only one enlisted candidate remains in the training pipeline for Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, or SWCC. The pipeline for the job, he added, included several screening assessments and then recruit training at the Navy training camp in Great Lakes, Ill., Before training at the basic underwater demolition school.

Salata also confirmed that a midshipman will be training with other future naval officers as part of the SEAL Officer Selection and Assessment Course, or SOAS, this summer.

“[SOAS] is part of the membership pipeline to become a SEAL and the performance of participants this summer will be an evaluation factor during the SEAL Officer Selection Panel in September, ”he said.

Due to operational security concerns, Salata said the Navy will not identify candidates or provide updates on their progress in the selection process. In special operations, where troops often keep their identities on hand to keep a low profile on missions, public attention in the training pipeline could affect a candidate’s career.

However, it is possible that the first female member of these elite communities will not come from outside, but from within. In October, a SWCC petty officer informed his chain of command that he identified as transgender, Salata confirmed to Military.com.

According to Navy policy guidelines released last fall, a sailor must receive a medical necessity diagnosis and command approval from a physician to begin the gender transition process, which can take a variety of forms, from counseling and from hormone therapy to surgery. Sailors must also prove that they can pass the physical standards and demands of the gender they are transitioning to.

These first candidates represent a milestone for the Navy, which previously enabled women to access all career fields except SEALs and the SWCC community. A successful candidate would also pave the way for special military operations.

Army officials said in January that a woman graduated from Ranger School and was about to join the Elite 75th Ranger Regiment, but no female soldier passed the process. selection for another element of army special operations. The Air Force and Marine Corps have also seen several female candidates for special operations, but have yet to announce a successful membership.

The two women who are now preparing to enter the Navy’s special operations training pipeline will have to overcome some of the most daunting attrition rates of any military training process.

Dunbar said SEALs, who graduate six basic underwater demolition / SEAL classes per year, have an average attrition rate of 73 to 75 percent, while the special boat operator community has an average attrition rate of 73 to 75 percent. 63% average attrition. The attrition rate of SEAL officers is, however, significantly lower; According to the Navy’s 2015 Implementation Plan for Women in Special Wars, up to 65 percent of SEAL officer candidates successfully enter the community.

But by the time they reach this final stage of training, the candidates have already been ruthlessly eliminated. Navy officials assess future Special Warfare Operators and Special Boat Operators, ranking them based on their scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, physical readiness test, Special ops resilience and mental resilience review. The highest ranked candidates are then assessed in training, based on the number of places available in the Navy at that stage.

“We are currently assessing that with the small cohorts of women, we don’t really know what’s going to happen in terms of expected attrition,” Dunbar, the deputy commander of the Naval Special Warfare Center, told DACOWITS in June. .

Dunbar, however, said Naval Special Warfare Command was considered fully prepared for its first female SEALs and SWCC operators, whenever they finally arrived. A group of female staff was in place in the training pipeline, and the command regularly held calls to all to discuss inclusiveness and inclusion.

“All the barriers have been lifted,” he said. “Our planning is complete and is on track.”

Salata said the Navy had also conducted a thorough review of its program and policies and assessed facilities and support capabilities to determine what changes may be required to accommodate women. As a result, he said, minor changes were made to accommodation facilities and approved uniform items.

Nonetheless, Salata said: “It would be premature to speculate on when we will see the first female SEAL or SWCC graduate. Managing expectations is an important part of the deliberate assessment and selection process; it can take months or even years.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated in the third paragraph to correct the school the SEAL Officer candidate attends. She’s a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, not at the Naval Academy.

– Hope Hodge Seck can be contacted at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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