Two female officers, whom the Department of Defense has declined to name, have been accepted to become Green Berets—if they can pass the rigorous selection and complete the requirements.The female officers applied and were admitted in the wake of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s order to open all combat arms specialties to women last year. If successful, they would achieve something arguably even more remarkable than the three women to graduate Ranger School last year.Ranger School, while very difficult, is at its core a leadership course. The soldiers who attend Ranger School go back to their units after training and resume their previous jobs. The two women accepted to begin training as Green Berets, however, would earn an entirely new 18-series Military Occupational Specialty.
They face a tough road. After Airborne school, the first part of their journey is Special Forces Assessment and Selection, a 19-day course designed to test the physical and mental resiliency of the candidates and weed out those who aren’t serious about earning the Beret. Roughly one-third of all those who begin SFAS drop out or are not selected to continue training. After selection, the women would go on to the Special Forces Qualification Course, a 45-week, five phase training course that teaches the core competencies of Special Forces soldiers. It too has a high washout rate: about half of those who begin never graduate from the “Q” course.There has been very stiff opposition within the Special Forces community toward integrating females. In the larger military, service members and civilians alike worry about lowered standards for entry to combat arms jobs. Earlier this year, several generals sat before members of Congress and pledged not to lower the physical requirements or change anything that would negatively affect combat performance of units.Despite these assurances, Special Operations Forces (SOF) operators themselves still overwhelmingly oppose integration. A RAND Corporation study conducted last year concluded that over 85% of all SOF members opposed incorporating females in their units.One Green Beret told the researchers and integration was “a complete waste of time,” and that he could “list hundreds of reasons why women cannot do the job that a Green Beret is required to do.”If they complete training, the women will not actually be the first to earn the Green Beret. That title goes to then-Capt. Kathleen Wilder, who qualified in 1981. The women are slated to begin SFAS as early as October, and if all goes well, could be at an Operational Detachment-Alpha by 2018.