Women in the Military: Female SEALs?

The top admiral says “there is no reason” why women can’t join the elite unit if they can pass the notoriously difficult training program.

U.S. Navy SEALs jump from a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter during training near Fort Pickett. (Specialist 2nd Class Meranda Keller / Navy / Flickr )

Updated on August 19 at 10:55 a.m. ET

The Navy’s top admiral tells Defense News and the Navy Times “there is no reason” why women cannot join the elite Navy SEALs if they can pass the notoriously difficult training program.

“Why shouldn’t anybody who can meet these [standards] be accepted? And the answer is, there is no reason,” Admiral Jonathan Greenert told the defense-focused publications. “So we’re on a track to say, ‘Hey, look, anybody who can meet the gender non-specific standards, then you can become a SEAL.’”

Greenert said both he and Rear Admiral Brian Losey, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command, believe that women should be allowed to serve if they pass the six-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training. He did not, however, provide a timeline for when women would be allowed into the elite training program.

The comments came a day after two female soldiers made history by becoming the first women to graduate from the elite Army Ranger School. Multiple news reports have identified the women as First Lieutenant Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver.

Defense News adds:

The push to integrate the storied SEAL brotherhood is coming on the heels of a comprehensive review led by Losey, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command, that recommended women be allowed under the same exacting standards required of male candidates. Final approval is still pending. The Army and Air Force are also moving to open all combat jobs to women, according to officials who spoke to the Associated Press. It's believed the Marine Corps may seek to keep its ground combat jobs, including the infantry, male-only.

The Pentagon lifted its ban on women in ground combat roles in 2013. In an article for The Atlantic that year, Elliot Ackerman—a writer and veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan—noted that the barrier to integrating women into the infantry isn’t physical, but cultural:

And that’s why the infantry may not be the best place to start in military gender integration. Instead, as counterintuitive as it might sound, the military should begin with its Special Operations Forces: elite units such as the Green Berets and SEALs. Although not the obvious move, starting here would likely make for a smoother transition over all. …

The women who pass through the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course or the Army Ranger School are going to be pretty tough—they’ll have to be. The problem won’t be them. The problem will be convincing the 19-year-old grunts to accept their presence. Grunts are trained to believe they’re the toughest thing wearing two combat boots, a conviction that helps them withstand the brutality that is the very essence of their job. But most will concede there is one thing tougher than them: the special operator.