First Woman Completes Training for Elite U.S. Navy Program

The Navy said the woman was the first graduate of a special warfare training pipeline that feeds the Navy SEALs and other elite commando forces.


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A woman has joined a United States Navy special warfare unit for the first time, the latest gender barrier to fall in the five years since women became eligible to apply for any combat job in the military.

The Navy on Thursday said the woman was the first female graduate from a special warfare training pipeline that feeds the Navy SEALs and other elite commando units. A Navy spokesperson told The Associated Press that the woman would not be identified, a standard policy for members of the special forces.

In a statement, Rear Adm. Hugh W. Howard III, the commander of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command, said the woman’s graduation represented “an extraordinary accomplishment.”

“Like her fellow operators, she demonstrated the character, cognitive and leadership attributes required to join our force,” he said.

The Navy said in a news release that the servicewoman was among 17 graduates of a program to become what it calls special warfare combatant-craft crewmen. She will be part of a team of personnel that trains at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif.

S.W.C.C. personnel specialize in what the Navy calls “covert insertion and extraction” operations that require expertise not only in weapons and navigation, but also engineering and parachuting. Only about 35 percent of S.W.C.C. candidates graduate, the Navy said.

The woman who graduated on Thursday will be among the operators on three special boat teams that transport Navy SEALs and conduct their own classified missions, The A.P. reported.

She is one of 18 women who have tried out to be a S.W.C.C. or a SEAL, according to a CNN report; 14 of them did not finish the 37-week special warfare training. Three other women are currently training to become Navy SEALs or S.W.C.C. operators, CNN said, citing a Navy spokesperson.

Navy officials in the United States could not immediately be reached for comment early Friday.

The share of women in the U.S. military has been inching upward for decades. When the draft ended in 1973, women accounted for 2 percent of enlisted forces and 8 percent of the officer corps in the U.S. military, according to an analysis of Defense Department data by the Council on Foreign Relations that did not include statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard. By 2018, those figures had risen to 16 percent and 19 percent.

In 2018, two years after the Pentagon opened all combat jobs to women, First Lt. Marina A. Hierl became the first woman in the Marine Corps to command an infantry platoon.

And last year, a female National Guard soldier became the first to earn the title of Green Beret after graduating from Army Special Forces training. Chief Master Sgt. JoAnne S. Bass of the U.S. Air Force also became the first woman to serve as the highest ranking noncommissioned member of a U.S. military service.

Last week, Chief Master Sergeant Bass celebrated the legacy of another pioneer, Sgt. Esther McGowin Blake, the first woman to enlist in the Air Force.

But for all the recent advances, even high-ranking female officers still face gender-based discrimination.

In March, President Biden nominated two women — Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost of the Air Force and Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson of the Army — to lead two of the military’s combatant commands. Their Pentagon bosses had agreed on their promotions before Mr. Biden took office, but held them back out of fears that President Donald J. Trump would reject the officers because they were women.

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