The "Navy does not intend to request any exemptions" banning women from serving in special warfare positions, including as a SEAL commando, Cmdr. William Marks, a top Navy spokesman, told Navy Times Thursday, Aug. 20.
His comments underscore those made by the Navy's most senior officer, Adm. Jonanthan Greenert, who told Navy Times in an exclusive interview Tuesday, Aug. 18 that the service was "on a track to say, 'Hey look, anybody who can meet the gender non-specific standards, then you can become a SEAL.' "
The Navy and all the services must notify the Defense Department by Sept. 30 ((DATE???))) of any exemption they want from new Defense Department DoD policy that would end long-time bans on women serving in numerous combat billets. Greenert's comments were the first reported public statement on the Navy SEALs' intent not to seek that exemption.
If the Navy, as Marks said, does not seek an exemption, then for the first time in its history, the service will open all positions and assignments regardless of gender. That would include about 2,500 SEAL positions and 750 positions in the Special Warfare Combat Crewman community.
The decision to open those communities follows a comprehensive review and rests on a requirement that women be able to pass the existing same elite physical and mental standards. That review was initiated when DoD in It was early 2013 when the Defense Department announced it was lifting the combat exclusion for female troops. In the Navy at the the time, only enlisted submarine billets, riverines, Marine Corps ground combat support and special warfare were closed to women.
Two years later, the storied Navy SEALs and their cousins, the special warfare combat crewmen, are the only communitiesjobs branchestwo jobs still closed to Navy women — exclusions now likely to be lifted. After a comprehensive review, the Navy is planning to open its SEAL and SWCC teams to women who can pass the same elite physical and mental standards. SEALs are to soon be lifted in the Navy. The service has three months to decide whether they'll open those last remaining billets, and all indications are that soon women will have the opportunity to join the legendary SEAL brotherhood.
The speculation came to a head Tuesday when Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said that he and the head of Naval Special Warfare Command, which oversees the manning and training of SEALs, believe that any woman ,in an exclusive interview with Navy Times and sister publication Defense News, said that in his opinion, anyone who is able to pass the SEALs' grueling training regimen should be able to earn a Trident.
"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 said in an exclusive Tuesday interview with Navy Times and its sister publication Defense News.
The military services must notify the Office of the Secretary of Defense by September ((sure??? not Sept. 31, end of FY?? or end of calendar year???)) if they plan to seek an exemption to exclude women from specific jobs — and the "Navy does not intend to request any exemptions" for any SEAL or SWCC billet,any of the 2,500 SEAL and 750 SWCC billets in its input to OSD seeking to keep SEALs or SWCCS closed to women, Navy spokesman Cmdr. William Marks confirmed to Navy Times told Navy Times on Thursday. There are an estimated 2,500 SEAL billets and 750 SWCC billets, as of August.
To be sure, the Navy SEALs' recommendation to open the SEAL and SWCC communities to women must also be approved by U.S. Special Operations Command as it makes its way to the defense secretary. If it's finally approved, then lawmakers will be notified and have 30 working days to respond. intervene.
In a press conference Aug. 20, Defense Secretary Ash Carter made clear that All combat positions will be opened to women unless there are compelling reasons to keep them closed, the Pentagon's leader made clear Thursday.
"The department's policy is that all ground combat positions will be open to women, unless rigorous analysis of factual data shows that the positions must remain closed," Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a press conference.
The long-awaited news of Navy's plan to integrate the SEAL teams plan to the Greenert's announcement was hailed by many as a victory for women's rights. Others warned that it could undermine the legendary comraderycamaraderie at the heart of SEAL effectiveness. and also criticized as a a move that could undermine met with cheers and jeers, but there was one overarching theme: Fine, as long as you don't change the standards.
That was the sentiment from both Navy Times readers and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and one of the Navy's most celebrated heroesveterans, said he supported the move as long as their rigorous standards remain high.
"Senator McCain supports Adm. Greenert's plan to begin accepting women into Navy SEAL teams if they can meet the service's difficult standards," spokeswoman Julie Tarallo told Navy Times on Wednesday. "Senator McCain believes it is critical that the Navy maintains the same high standards that have made the American military the greatest fighting force in the world — particularly the rigorous physical standards for our elite SEAL teams."
Navy Times readers Readers expressed similar thoughts.
"The teams work as cohesive units because each and every member has endured BUD/S. Officer and enlisted men alike. There are no special standards for officers. In fact, the Hats are harder on the officers than the enlisted men," wrote Christopher Duncan on Facebook. "This same standard must apply to women in order for there to be satisfactory unit cohesion. Nothing less is acceptable."
Greenert said his endorsement comes after discussions with the NSWC commander, Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who oversees SEAL manpower, training and equipment from his headquarters in Coronado, California. Greenert's interview also marked the first time that a member of the special operations community had put an endorsement on opening NSW. Top officer Rear Adm. Brian Losey, Greenert said,
"I believe it completely and I know that the commander of our Special Warfare Command, Adm. Losey, believes that," Greenert said.
Women aren't eligible for the 6-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training BUD/S yet, and Greenert didn't specify a timeline on when the first women would be able to enter SEAL training should the plan receive final approval. but unless Greenert has a reason to request an exemption before the year is out, they will be.
"I don't see it right now..., Vago. We're not complete but I don't see any reason for an exemption right now," he said.
Making the cut
The likely opening of Navy special warfare to women mirrors initiatives across the services to integrate them into previously closed combat roles.
Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, both West Point graduates, are set to graduate from the Army's toughest school on Friday, making them the first women in history to wear the coveted Ranger qualification tab.
In the Marine Corps, more than a hundred women have made it through enlisted infantry training, though no officers have made it through.
Women have proven they can pass some of the military's most elite training under the same standards asof their male counterparts, but the BUD/S training Naval Special Warfare's Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL is a whole other animal.
And unlike Ranger school, it's not just a feather in one's cap — it comes with a military specialty rating change to special operator.
The six-month crucible has a nearly 80 percent drop-out rate, and that's for the already impressive athletes who qualify for and complete the two-month Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School at Great Lakes, Illinois.
At a minimum, SEAL candidates must swim 500 yards in 12½ minutes, run 1.5 miles in 10½ minutes, and do 50 curl-ups, 50 pushups and 10 pullups in two minutes each to be accepted.
SWCC candidates have a slightly relaxed but still toughgrueling standard: swim at 500 yards in 13 minutes, a 1.5-mile run in 12 minutes, plus 50 pushups, 50 curl-ups and 6 pullups.
But then there's a catch: Candidates are graded on a curve., SEAL/SWCC recruiting boss Capt. Duncan Smith told Navy Times in an interview last year: You're graded on a curve.
In fiscal year 2014, Smith said, the average in-fleet SEAL or SWCC candidate who was selected for training did more than 22 pullups in his physical standards test, said the SEAL/SWCC recruiting boss, Capt. Duncan Smith, in a 2014 Navy Times interview.
"In other words, the requirement of 10 pullups doesn't even get you looked at," he said said.
Despite the bare minimum requirements, applicants in each monthly pool compete against each other for a limited number of spots. Of hundreds of thousands who contact NSW recruiting every year, maybe 10,000 work with a recruiter to prepare, and less than 700 will end up cleared for training, Smith said.
"A lot of people pass the class, but we're looking for the 'A' students," he said, which generally includes a lot of top performing college athletes.
Pushing the deadline
While the four DoD services have been opening up billets or training opportunities to women since 2013, special operations bosses officials have been tight-lipped about the possibility of assigning women to their ranks.
"Each service and SOCOM has identified decision points by which they will make final recommendations to the secretary of defense to open positions or to request an exception to policy to keep positions or occupations closed," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen told Navy Times in late 2014.
In a 2013 release, the Navy announced that special warfare was in the process of reviewing its standards and the possibility of integrating women. Without an exemption, the planned timeline was to submit their report to the Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in summer 2014.
That was pushed back, Mabus told Navy Times last September, but the plan was still on track. At the end of the year, Christensen confirmed that the Navy still planned to complete its plan and notify Congress of its decision by July 1, 2015.
That would have gotten the ball rolling on the original plan to allow women going through boot camp in fall 2015 to pre-select the special warfare track and go through training in early 2016, when the exclusionban lifts.
That timeline has since been pushed, as Marks confirmed. Once the Navy notifies SOCOM of its position, the joint combatant command will send their recommendations to the Defense Department, which can grant an exemption before the end of this year.
To wrap it all up, the Pentagon Defense Department will have to notify Congress of its plan and allow 30 working days for members to make an argument against it.
The legendary founder of the shadowy SEAL Team 6 is critical of the Navy's plan to integrate SEAL teams, but said he doesn't doubt that some extraordinary women will be able to pass the arduous training.
"Some young woman … is going to bust through and prove that it can be done," retired Cmdr. Richard Marcinko told Navy Times.