Special ops wary of adding women
Publicly and privately, U.S. commandos are casting doubt on the sexual revolution looming over Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Delta Force and Green Berets.The Marines have not had much luck finding women who can meet the physical demands of combat training. Special forces training can be particularly demanding and most of the men who enter the program don't finish it. There maybe some women who could endure the grueling and demanding program, but it will be difficult to find many who wnat it badly enough to make it through the rigors of the training.
The Pentagon staged a press briefing last week to announce a two-year study to refine combat physical standards and find the best way to install women in the male bastion of infantry, armor and special operations. A decision on which combat roles will be open to women is expected in 2015.
It is the special “ops” group — with its secretive isolation in small teams where physical stamina matters most — that has commandos the most nervous.
“The only option now is to offer reasons why they can’t do it,” said an Army special operations veteran who believes U.S. Special Operations Command will cave to White House demands to include women. “I haven’t heard that anyone has the courage to say they can’t do it, either. Maybe the new [military occupational specialty] can be 18P — Special Forces camp follower. Is that PC enough?”
An ArmySpecial Forces soldier said the qualification course at Fort Bragg, N.C., to earn the Green Beret is so demanding that the Army will have to lower standards for some tasks in able for women to succeed.
“The real outcry will begin if the current standards are significantly lowered,” the soldier said. “Genderless standards will cause many SOF courses to completely reassess how they select the best candidates.”
“It’s not marathon times. It’s not your speed in a 400-meter run or swim,” Adm. Worthington said. “It’s how do you do it after 52 hours of being totally awake. Sand in your crotch and leeches and mosquitoes. How do you take that? It’s military conditioning, not Olympics stuff.”
Part of the two-year study will examine ground combat standards and recommend whether they should be changed to give women better chances.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that if a service wants to keep a job as a male-only occupation because of its high physical demands, the service will have to show why those tests should not be lowered to accommodate women.
Tests of strength are particularly important to special operations. About 15,000 combat positions, a fraction of the 1.4 million active force, are subject to integration.