There are at least 12 women who have made it through the grueling challenge to earn their Ranger tabs. The Green Berets, though, are still all-male. That may not last long. The Special Forces have been open to females in the Army for two years now, but none have made it past the selection process, until now.
There are women serving in combat positions in all branches, including the Marines (above). But the selection process for some units have been a barrier.
Special Forces Assessment and Selection is a 24-day program designed to provide an initial overview of a candidate’s suitability.
“Recently, a female successfully completed Special Forces Assessment and Selection and was selected to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course,” Lt. Col. Loren Bymer told Army Times.
The soldier’s name and occupational specialty are not being shared with the public, but the milestone is.
“It is our policy to not release the names of our service members because Special Forces soldiers perform discreet missions upon graduation,” Bymer said.
“Candidates for the elite unit must be in superb physical and mental condition,” NPR reports. “The first phase of the SFAS course tests soldier’s endurance; in addition to running, swimming and mandatory sit-ups and pull-ups, they participate in rucksack marches, often covering hundreds of miles, all on very little sleep. The second phase of the assessment period measures leadership and teamwork abilities. Soldiers are tested on their effectiveness as leaders, with little to no guidance, and how they work within a team.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Steve Blum, a 42-year Army veteran and Green Beret, was pleased by the news. “I applaud and celebrate the fact because half of the world that we have to deal with when we’re out there, half of the people we have to help, are women. The days of men fighting men without the presence of women is long gone.”
While many think it is the physical component that prevents many candidates from completing the program, Blum disagrees. He told reporters that it is the mental strain of being placed in scenarios “where there are no good solutions.”
“Most of the time you have to come up with a MacGyver solution,” he added. “You have to be able to take what you have — or the people you have — and make it work.”
The qualification course itself differs depending on the soldier’s area of specialty. They also have to learn a language that would help them where they may be headed. The Green Berets are expected to be able to infiltrate foreign countries and are trained to work along side of indigenous populations.
Most of the attrition during training comes during the initial assessment phase. Up to half don’t make it as far as this female soldier currently has. More drop out during the next phase, but the numbers are smaller.
If she makes it through, or doesn’t change her mind about the role she would be expected to fill, she will certainly make history.