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Fitness in Special Operations — Women’s Standards

Pushup workout

Over the past few months, this email question has been blowing up my inbox. It is concerning adding women to Special Operations units like Army Special Force, SEALs, Rangers, and the rest. Here is an email from a future BUD/​S student:

I am training for BUDS when I graduate college in 2 years. I am on Capitol Hill for the summer and I hear they are talking about lowering the fitness standards for some programs including SEALs to make it more inviting to women. What is your opinion on this and do you think it will actually happen?

Personally, I do not speak for Navy Special Warfare, I am a civilian fitness writer who specializes in fitness standard programming. Making programs for people to succeed well above the minimum standards is what I do — no matter what the program, fitness test, or men or women. But this question is really a waste of time coming from a young, male, trainee who wants to go to BUD/​S. You all need to focus on your own training as it is a 80–90 % attrition rate among men. These men who quit are well-​​screened, tough, above average strength and cardiovascular endurance. You ALL will have your hands full training for the next couple of years to be competitive and in the top 10–20% of the class who finish.

Getting INTO BUD/​S is not a cake walk anymore. BUD/​S entry standards have actually gotten harder over the past decade with the following standards: See official Navy website www​.SEALSWCC​.com for more information:

PHYSICAL SCREENING TEST MINIMUM OPTIMUM
• Swim 500 yards 12:30 9:00
• Push-​​ups 50 90
• Curl-​​ups a.k.a. Sit-​​ups 50 85
• Pull-​​ups 10 18
• Run 1.5 miles 10:30 09:30

Previously lower minimum standards yielded only a 6% chance of graduation. Today’s minimum scores are higher and the new OPTIMUM scores are required as it is so competitive to get INTO BUD/​S training today. Today’s minimum standards as you can see are not that tough, but once you reach the optimum scores, the SEAL Mentors in your recruiting district will put you up on a nationwide “draft” program and the best combined scores (ASVAB, CSORT, PST etc) will get selected to go to Boot Camp, Pre– BUD/​S, BUD/​S Indoctrination, then finally attend the real test - BUD/​S.

For what it is worth this My OPINION: I am not a fan of lowering any fitness standards in the military, special operations, police departments, or fire fighting professions for anybody — male or female. These are dangerous jobs and your fitness level can one day be the determining factor between living and dying, saving a teammate or not, saving a victim or not. That is how important it is not only to have high fitness standards for all of our public servants, but to also maintain them. So yes, I am not a fan of ANY different fitness standards for men and women doing the same job. There should be health and fitness tests as well as job performance testing depending upon a person’s job.

I know there are women who can physically surpass those optimum standards above. I cannot say whether a woman can make it through BUD/​S or not and honestly, I cannot say if any man is going to make it through BUD/​S. I have helped many prepare for BUD/​S over the past 15 years and am always surprised that some did not graduate. Physically, they should have had no problem with the course. There is more to BUD/​S than physical fitness standards.

My recommendation is to allow the people in the military, pentagon, and even politicians, aggressively study the option of allowing qualified women into these professions. There are no predetermined answers — just questions. Someone has to ask is lower standards an option. Someone has to ask how do we integrate women into Special Operations. Someone has to ask will Special Operations be a better fighting force with these changes. And we should all ask are we really a free country if we do not allow women to screen for all jobs in the military? Remember - BUD/​S is the “fitness” test to become a Navy SEAL. You are not a SEAL just because you are going through BUD/​S training.

People who are much smarter than I am are asking and answering these questions. There are many jobs in Special Operations that do not require advanced levels of strength and endurance, but require intellect, tactical precision, and the ability to blend into a foreign country and not look like the Warrior-​​American class. The CIA has had women doing dangerous — “behind the line” jobs for decades. It could be a logical fit? Who knows?

Related Topics

Navy Special Operations Navy Fitness Special Operations Fitness Navy Fitness Requirements Military Workouts Stew Smith Women in the Military Army Special Forces Navy SEALs Army Rangers

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Contributor

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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