By Anna Kim
In 2015, the SEALs pipeline became available for women. Despite attempts by eight women to participate in the SEAL office assessment and selection process, there hasn’t been any success in there being women Navy SEALs.

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The Training Process for Women Navy SEALs

Training to become a Navy SEAL is not an easy task. There are mental and physical phases of the training, with two months of physical training being at the forefront. The first stage involves a two-month training phase followed by a Physical Screening Test. This test consists of swimming, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and running. If people don’t pass this stage, they get reclassified to other jobs in the Navy. The second stage is a course that lasts three weeks and serves as orientation. They’re introduced to obstacle courses and physical training. The third stage is basic conditioning, also known as Hell Week. This is seven weeks long and consists of physical training, water competency, and mental tenacity in an effort to build teamwork skills. Their performance is measured, and it’s common for candidates to reconsider their decision to join around this point. The fourth stage is combat diving, where candidates are introduced to underwater skills. They must become skilled in swimming and diving. The fifth and final stage is land warfare training. It’s seven weeks long, and candidates learn patrolling, rappelling, demolitions, basic weapons, marksmanship, and small-unit tactics. Those who complete this round receive their SEAL Qualification Training diploma.

The Lack of Women Navy SEALs

Are there women in the Navy SEALs? If so, exactly how many women are in the Navy SEALs? There were two women who were set to undergo the difficult training process after being offered SEAL contracts in 2019 and 2020. However, they both left the training pipeline and failed to earn their SEAL Trident. One spokesperson from the Navy responded to their attempts by stating that "Although neither were selected for a contract, female service members and civilians have a rich history of service within NSW (Naval Special Warfare), and their diverse talents and capabilities will continue to evolve and professionalize the NSW force.” Even though female services are still utilized and valued in the NSW, this still does not change the disproportionate gender outcomes of so few women in the Navy.

Striving for Change

In 2016, the Department of Defense finally made all Navy military occupational specialties available to women, leading to female troops being enlisted in and transferred to combat jobs that used to not be allowed for women. Before this, women could not take on combat roles, which included Land Teams, special operation forces, Air, and Navy’s Sea. This was a chance to possibly have more women in the Navy SEALs, but if anything, it proved to be a challenge. The U.S. military’s elite special operations consisted of physically challenging training and missions, which have been difficult for women to complete. There’s also training to become special warfare combatant craft crewmen. In this program, 13 women underwent the course, and one successfully completed the course to become the first female NSW operator. Currently, three more women are in training. On top of that, the first female special tactics officer graduated from the Air Force in 2022. Despite this attempt to have more women, there still aren’t any female Navy SEALs. Jason Birch, a Navy Captain, explained how the Navy has made efforts to increase female special warfare candidates. He outlined that one of these ways was to have female instructors in Navy Special Warfare Training, but these efforts haven’t been successful, as very few female participants have made it past training.

Can Women Be in the Navy SEALs?

While there have been efforts made to increase the number of women Navy SEALs, it seems that the bigger reason why many don’t enlist is due to the gruesome and extensive training. In fact, the training is even difficult for men. Of the 1,000 recruits that are enlisted in SEAL training every year, only around 250 successfully pass. We look forward to more women successfully passing the training process and helping to increase the diversity of the field.

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Image: Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl | U.S. Special Operations Command




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