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Navy SEALs set to open to women, top admiral says

August 18, 2015 (Photo Credit: Naval Special Warfare Command)

Editor's note: This story appeared originally on on Aug. 18, 2015.

The Navy is planning to open its elite SEAL teams to women who can pass the grueling training regimen, the service's top officer said Tuesday in an exclusive interview.

Adm. Jon Greenert said he and the head of Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Adm. Brian Losey, believe that if women can pass the legendary six-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, they should be allowed to serve.

"Why shouldn't anybody who can meet these [standards] be accepted? And the answer is, there is no reason," Greenert said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with Navy Times and its sister publication Defense News. "So we're on a track to say, 'Hey look, anybody who can meet the gender non-specific standards, then you can become a SEAL.'"

Greenert's full interview is set to air Sunday morning on "Defense News with Vago Muradian."  

The push to integrate the storied SEAL brotherhood is coming on the heels of a comprehensive review led by Losey, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command, that recommended women be allowed under the same exacting standards required of male candidates. Final approval is still pending. The Army and Air Force are also moving to open all combat jobs to women, according to officials who spoke to the Associated Press. It's believed the Marine Corps may seek to keep its ground combat jobs, including the infantry, male-only.

The move to integrate the military's most storied commando units comes the day after news broke that two women had passed the Army's arduous Ranger course. Nineteen women began the course, which has about a 45 percent passing rate.

The Navy has said it is on track to open all ratings to women by next year, but this is the first indication that the SEALs are leaning toward accepting candidates. Greenert didn't specify a timeline for allowing women candidates into BUD/S training.

Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command is also conducting a review of its standards in preparation for a possible integration order, according to Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, MARSOC's commander.

The SEALs would be the latest, and the last, of the traditionally male-only branches to open to women during Mabus' tenure.

In 2011, the first female officers reported to ballistic missile submarines, and early this year several more reported to Virginia-class attack subs. Enlisted women are on track to join them next year and the service is already recruiting enlisted women off the streets to enter submarine ratings.

And in 2012, riverine training opened to women, making way for the go-ahead to assign them to billets and deploy them last year.

It's not clear how many women will attempt to join the SEALs when it opens to them. The percentage of women in expeditionary specialties, like Seabees and Navy divers, are exceedingly low.

Out of an end strength of 1,153, there are only seven female Navy divers — just .61 percent of the force. And there are only 10 women in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal community of the 1,094 total enlisted sailors.

EOD officers fill billets at EOD and fleet diver commands — billets that have also been open to women for decades — but less than 3 percent of those billets are held by women.

Staff writers Hope Hodge Seck and Mark D. Faram contributed to this report.



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