Review of women joining SEALs on track

Students at a Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training couse participate in a surf passage training exercise. Women will be integrated into the elite SEAL community unless U.S. Special Operations Command and the Navy offer a compelling reason for it to remain closed to them. (MC2 Kyle D. Gahlau / Navy)

U.S. Special Operations Command report on integrating women into the elite Navy SEAL community was due back in July, but officials aren’t able to confirm whether it’s been completed or when leadership will be briefed. Still, the the service is on track to make a final decision about admitting women to the teams by 2016, said the service’s top civilian. And it’s an effort he supports.

“In my opinion, if people meet the qualifications, I don’t think gender should matter,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a meeting with reporters on Tuesday.

Mabus, who has made expanding womens’ opportunities across the force one of his hallmarks, said he hasn’t heard any updates on the study’s progress. A spokesman for Naval Special Warfare said he had no updates on the report, either, and representatives for SOCOM did not immediately return calls for comment.

When the Navy, in 2013, began opening up the last jobs closed to female sailors, women were on track to be able declare their intent to join NSW in boot camp or at officer selection by fall 2015. This would put them on track to join SEAL teams or Special Warfare Combatant Crewman units by January 2016.

The move toward fully integrating women into all communities across the armed services began to gather momentum in February 2012 when former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the Defense Department would allow women to be assigned to select positions in ground combat units at the battalion level, opening more than 14,000 billets to women across the services. In January 2013, Panetta andChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey announced the recission of the direct ground combat exclusion rule, a move unanimously supported by the Joint Chiefs.

Then in June 2013, Dempsey submitted the Navy’s implementation plan to Congress, with provisions for a 2014 SOCOM study into special warfare integration.

“What Secretary Panetta said when he signed the thing was, the presumption is that everything will open unless there’s a specific reason for it to be closed,” Mabus said Tuesday.

Although Mabus said he didn’t know if the study had been completed by the July 1 deadline, he reiterated that NSW is now the last community closed to women; the Coastal Riverine Force and attack submarine community opened to women within the past year.

“The thing I keep saying about SEALs, about special warfare, is 80 percent of men don’t make it,” he said. “So we know what the standards are. If you can make it, I don’t see where gender has much of a place.”

The Navy opened up 267 riverine billets to women in March of this year, adding 21 more potential billets for the joint terminal attack controller enlisted classification in September.

Meanwhile, the Navy is working out the logistics for putting enlisted women on attack submarines. In January 2015, the first female attack sub officers will report to the Virginia and Minnesota.

By Meghann Myers  (Staff Writer  – Navy Times)

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