Fear of G.I. Jane: Special operations forces are worried about adding women

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

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 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 Army Special 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.”

Most tests of strength and endurance, the soldier said, “currently rely on a candidate’s ability to endure physical hardships as a fundamental aspect of their assessment.”

Studies and tests

Retired Rear Adm. George Worthington, the Navy’s top SEAL in the early 1990s, said there is more to combat than whether a woman can run as fast as a man.

“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.

But it is the elite SEALs, Green Berets, Delta Force and Rangers that have led the global fight to find and kill Islamic terrorist leaders, including al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden. Special ops is expected to be active in Afghanistan and globally long after a big U.S. troop withdrawal next year.

ArmyMaj. Gen. Bennet S. Sacolick is a former Delta Force combatant who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He knows firsthand the rigors of close-in combat. He appeared at the Pentagon last week representing U.S. Special Operations Command (SoCom) in Tampa, Fla., and he was decidedly cautious at the press briefing.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks