Despite lifting of regulations, women still not entering special operations units at significant rates

Sgt. Amanda Carrasco, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, crosses the finish line during the 25th Infantry Division Pre-Ranger Female Screening, in Hawaii. The 10-day assessment was intended to screen and select candidates for attendance at the Ranger Training Assessment Course, the Army's premier Pre-Ranger course, located at Fort Benning, Ga. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tramel Garrett)

One year into the military’s lifting of the ban on women in combat-oriented occupations, elite units such as the US Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs have yet to see a female servicewoman enter their respective ranks.

The US Navy in particular has been keeping a close eye on female applicants for Naval Special Warfare Command jobs, currently monitoring the interests of a ROTC member who is interested in the SEALs and a civilian who is currently a Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman.

That said, it will likely be years until the Navy sees a woman in such a unit, if not longer.

NSWC Commander Rear Admiral Tim Szymanski said that because the selection and training process for such units is so long, it may be some time before a female applicant to enter the ranks. In fact, a female who began the process now would not even join a SEAL team until 202 or later- if she passes UDT/SEAL training at all.

“Just last week, we secured Hell Week … [we started with] 165 folks. We finished with 29. It’s a tough pipeline and that is not uncommon,” Szymanski said on Tuesday. “Five classes a year, and that’s what you have, demographically.”

Lieutenant General Kenneth Tovo of the US Army Special Operations Command said that while the Rangers have picked up one female officer, the rest of the Special Operations units -such as the Special Forces- have not had any luck getting a female in their numbers at this time.

“We’re going slow,” Tovo said. “The day we got the word that SF and rangers were available to women, our recruiting battalion that actually works for recruit command sent an email to every eligible woman, notifying them of the opportunity and soliciting their volunteerism. We are working things across the force through special ops recruiting battalion to talk to women and get them interested.”

Meanwhile, the USAF and US Marine Special Operations units have had little luck as well. According to, while several female applicants have attempted to get into MARSOC and USAF Pararescue, none have been able to complete training.

“This is a process; it’s going to take time,” Tovo said. “We are focused on it, we’re ready for it and I have no doubt when we get the opportunity to put women through our qualification courses, it going to be done to a professional standard and we will be proud of the results of the female operators who come out the other end.”


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