First Female Navy SEALs Could Get Assignments in 2017, Plans Show

Recruits undergo a uniform inspection at Recruit Training Command, the Navy’s only boot camp, April 16, 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Brian Walsh/Released)

The first female enlisted Navy SEALs could be assigned to units next fall, and the first female SEAL officers could be in place by 2018, a newly approved Navy implementation plan shows.

The 50-page plan was made public on Thursday after the Pentagon announced that all services' plans to open previously closed combat and special ops positions to women had been approved. The announcement means the services can now begin training, recruiting and assignment to place female troops in previously closed jobs.

According to the document, the first enlisted female sailors could enter the Naval Special Warfare training beginning with the prep course at Great Lakes, Illinois, in May, complete qualification September 2017, and undergo unit assignment the following month. For officers, the earliest possible scenario would see women entering training December, completing qualification in January 2018, and receiving assignments the following month.

For special warfare combatant-craft crewmen, an enlisted-only position, women could begin training as early as May and undergo assignment as soon as March 2017.

"These dates were determined using best-case scenarios for the [Naval Special Warfare] operator pipeline assuming qualified application packages are received by the prescribed deadlines…and there are no delays," Rear Adm. Brian Losey, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, wrote in a memo that introduces the implementation plan. "Most likely, start dates would shift to the next consecutive class number."

He added that attrition and set-back rates would also play a role in how quickly women can enter these elite communities. SEAL officers have a 65-percent success rate; enlisted SEAL candidates have a 28-percent success rate; and SWCC candidates have only a 38-percent success rate, Losey said. Eighty percent of all students in SEAL and SWCC training pipelines experience a performance or medical setback that delays their progress, he said.

The Navy's plan describes lessons learned from the entry of women into the Navy explosive ordnance disposal and Navy diver communities. Officials warn that newly opened NSW positions will see relatively low interest from women and lower success rates.

Female EOD officers make up just 2.5 percent of the total EOD officer population, the document states, while enlisted female EOD personnel make up just 0.9 percent of their community. Only 0.6 percent of Navy divers are women.

Planners also warned against applying a quota system to fill newly opened positions with women, saying that quotas used in the past go unfilled and that they result in less-qualified candidates and "contribute to higher female attrition rates."

A better solution is a gender-blind selection process, the plan states.

At the Navy's Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California, the plan recommends increasing female staff by a factor of five in order to ensure female sailors entering the community have opportunities to be successful.

For the Navy's elite Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school and other elements of the NSW pipeline, planners found the introduction of female students would require very little added infrastructure.

The plan recommends spending $175,000 to install security cameras at BUD/S barracks and another $100,000 for shower and bathroom facilities for female sailors.

At BUD/S, the Navy proposes "open bay" barracks facilities for male and female students, with privacy partitions built in to create gender-specific bathroom facilities.

Losey maintained the Navy's commitment to maintaining rigorous standards for Naval Special Warfare as the service opens the community to women.

"Any deviation from the validated, operationally relevant, gender-neutral standards would undermine true integration, disrupt unit cohesion, impact combat effectiveness, and be a disservice to those exceptional candidates willing to test and serve against the required and validated standards," he wrote.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

Story Continues