- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2015

NEWSMAKER INTERVIEW:

The Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden says there is a welcome mat out for women SEALs if they can meet the grueling physical and mental standards that exist today.

Former Chief Petty Officer Robert O’Neill, whose handpicked SEAL Team Six unit raided bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, answered “absolutely” when asked whether women can meet the demands of sea, undersea, ground and airborne warriors.

Asked by The Washington Times how he knows, Mr. O’Neill said, “I’ve met women that I think can beat me up. I’m not joking. Here in the states. There are some tough women out there.”

The Pentagon in 2013 lifted the ban on women serving in direct land combat units, such as infantry, armor and special operations.



U.S. commands have been validating physical standards for their units, among them the SEALs. If naval special warfare wants to keep the SEALs all-male, it must make that case to Pentagon civilian leaders.

Both the Army and Marine Corps have been conducting combat training experiments with women. The SEALs to date have not.

At some point this year, the defense secretary will make final decisions.

Internal discussions center on whether women can meet required strength and endurance tests, and on whether commanders believe the introduction of women would cause problems for unit cohesion.

Particular interest has been placed on a SEAL community known for a macho culture and extremely demanding training.

“It is the toughest in the world,” Mr. O’Neill said. “It’s tough physically. But it comes to a mental spot where you need to talk yourself into doing more. And you can convince your body through your mind to do anything and I think a lot of women are mentally tougher than men. Like I said, if they don’t lower the standards. If they can do the amount of pull ups, do the slide for life, get over the cargo net, and carry the log then, yeah.”

“Slide for life” is a test to move laterally above ground on a rope for a set distance. It requires superior upper body strength and balance.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Allen, a spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command, said, “Like the services, USSOCOM is conducting a standards validation for previously closed occupational specialties and units. The command is not predisposed to any decision or course of action. In the end, the analyses will drive the commander’s recommendation to the SecDef.”

Special Operations Command, or SoCom, is led by Gen. Joseph Votel, a career Army Ranger. The Army is now testing women volunteers at its Ranger School.

SEAL Team Six is the Navy’s vaunted hostage rescue and terrorist hunting unit that not only got bin Laden, but also has captured and killed scores of other terrorists.

Asked what attribute elevates a SEAL to Team 6, Mr. O’Neill said, “You need to be mentally better.”

Are these guy ready to accept women?

“I think they are,” said Mr. O’Neill, who left the Navy in 2012. “I would say, based on the guys I know, if they do not lower the standards, then yes.”

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