In 2016, women were officially welcome to join military special forces. So, it makes sense that one might wonder if there are any female Navy SEALs currently serving. Well, the short answer is no, but it’s not for a lack of trying. In simple terms, no female has been able to successfully complete Navy SEAL training… yet.
The reason for this might be more complicated than you think. Read on for more about why there aren’t any female Navy SEALs and what this might mean for gender equality in the military.
The History of Females in the Military
Female participation in the military is a tumultuous one and has a relatively recent history. The first woman to enlist in a branch of the military was Loretta Walsh in 1917. Mind you – this was prior to women being given the right to vote.
But, even with her eagerness to enlist, the first group of female recruits to be admitted to a U.S. military academy didn’t happen until decades later in 1976.
Plus, as we briefly mentioned before, banning women from joining special forces units such as the Navy SEALs or Army Rangers wasn’t lifted until only a few years ago. Why were women not welcome in the military in the first place?
What Concerns Do People Have About Women as Navy SEALs?
The issue that’s most often brought up when debating whether it’s a good idea for women to serve in the military, especially in the special forces, is a matter of biological differences. People can sometimes see a woman as a potential liability since her body physically cannot amass muscle in the same way a man can.
Proponents of keeping the ban on women in the military worry that setting curves for women means lowering the standards to a point where it’s unsafe for their fellow soldiers and, ultimately, risks the security of the nation.
On average, the facts are clear. Women are smaller than men and not as physically strong. Again, these are generalizations and certainly don’t account for specific instances. There are some women who are stronger and bigger than the average man. But, these women are the exceptions.
But, since these female exceptions do exist, many others claim that giving them an opportunity to join the special forces, so long as they meet the same requirements as men, seems to be a step in the right direction without risking anyone’s safety.
Women in the Special Forces
Although there are currently no women serving as Navy SEALs, two women have made history and are now serving as Army Rangers — the Army’s special forces unit. First Lieutenant Shaye Haver and Captain Kristen Griest became the first two female Army Rangers by completing the required training and meeting all the same standards that male Army Rangers were held to without exception.
Sure, they are outliers in terms of females who are capable of the challenge, but surely it’s beneficial that the military at least offers the opportunity to all females.
There have been a handful of women who have made it to Navy SEAL training, a feat in and of itself. But, none of them have been able to graduate so far. However, to be fair, not many men make it to the finish line either.
It’s well known that Navy SEAL training is grueling, to say the least. Only 25% of the men who enter training make it through to the end. Even the best of the best, strongest of the strong, and biggest of the big men often don’t make it through. Even the men must be outliers to successfully become a Navy SEAL. It begs the assumption that it’s only a matter of time before one of those outliers will be female.
What Happens in Navy SEAL Training?
It’s appropriate here to get slightly sidetracked and discuss what actually goes on during Navy SEAL training. Don’t worry — we’ll give you the Cliffnotes version.
Training for your first deployment as a Navy SEAL can take up to 30 months. Those months will be some of the hardest in your life and many agree that it’s 90% mental.
It starts with 24 weeks in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School (BUD/S), in which only about 1% of those who enter will complete, followed by 28 weeks in a SEAL qualification training program.
Navy SEAL hopefuls endure situations like what’s called “Hell Week,” which is five days of constant training with only five hours of sleep per night. During Hell Week you might stand in cold water up to your waist, stand on a cold beach in soaking wet clothing, and endure other hellish conditions.
Other training sessions include carrying loaded boats, navigating the surf, jumping out of planes, entering the ocean via helicopter, close proximity combat drills, environmental stress training, and, of course, weaponry training.
Going back to the notion that a huge majority of Navy SEALs say that training is mostly about mental strength, it becomes clear that, while yes — physical strength and aptitude are important — women are capable of just as much mental strength as men. It’s a step in the right direction that they are now being given a shot.
Female Navy SEALs in the Future
Unfortunately, some people are disappointed in the women who have attempted to become Navy SEALs and came out unsuccessful. But, in reality, the courage it takes to even try something so incredibly hard is worth praising and shouldn’t be seen as a failure.
The only way for women to make a difference, not only in the military or the Navy SEALs but within our culture as a whole, is to do things that no one thought could be done. To at least try. And like the women who are now Army Rangers have shown, it won’t be long before a woman is proudly graduating as a Navy SEAL.
So, although there is not yet a female Navy SEAL among the ranks, it doesn’t seem out of the question that soon there will be. Training is as much of a mental game as it is a physical one, and even though females might have some biological physical limitations when compared to males, the outliers are sure to shine through.
After all, everyone who becomes a Navy SEAL is an outlier in their own way. Therefore, it’s definitely a progressive move to allow women the opportunity to be some of those outliers.