The Army Is About to Get its First Female Green Beret

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Green Beret graduation ceremony
Green Berets graduate at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on April 30, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkle)

A female U.S. Army soldier is scheduled to graduate from the Special Forces Qualification Course in July and become the first woman to join the Green Berets, U.S. military officials say.

U.S. Army Special Operations Command would not comment on the female Q-Course candidate ahead of the July 9 graduation ceremony, but multiple sources have confirmed to Military.com that the National Guard member, who remains anonymous, successfully completed all the requirements to graduate from the grueling 53-week Q-Course.

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"Earning your Green Beret is no small feat, and this qualification is just the first step in a challenging and rewarding career," a senior Defense Department official familiar with the issue told Military.com.

"Our senior leaders are extremely proud of her as well as the entire graduating class and the highly professional instructors at the U.S. Army [John F. Kennedy] Special Warfare Center and School, who develop these world-class Green Berets."

The Q-Course is made up of six phases and includes training in small-unit operations, advanced Special Forces tactics, language training and unconventional warfare. After graduating, Green Berets typically are assigned to 12-member operational detachment alpha (ODA) teams, which are made up of weapons, communications, intelligence, engineer and medical specialists.

In mid-June, the National Guard soldier finished the final requirement by making it through Robin Sage, a culminating field exercise that drops candidates into a fictional, unconventional-warfare setting at Camp Mackall, North Carolina.

During the three-week exercise, students are formed into ODA teams and forced to apply skills in guerrilla warfare; mission analysis and planning; and rapport-building as they link up with friendly foreign forces and train them to fight against an unfriendly government.

"She excelled throughout the course and earned the respect of both her instructors and her peer group based on her demonstrated capabilities and performance; this achievement is just another one in the storied history of the Special Forces," a senior Army official said.

USASOC would not provide any details about the female soldier's identity.

"It is imperative to protect the identities of service members who are assigned to specialized units and deploy as part of ongoing operations worldwide," USASOC spokesman Lt. Col. Loren Bymer said. "We do this to protect the safety of our soldiers and their families."

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, congratulated the female soldier on her accomplishment in a statement on her website.

"This achievement is a testament to this soldier's individual strength, courage, and commitment, and also an important institutional milestone for U.S. Special Operations Command as it embraces the cultural change that will continue to make it the most successful and elite Special Operations Force in the world," Stefanik said in the statement.

USASOC officials recently notified Stefanik, and other lawmakers, about the female soldier's pending graduation from the Q-Course, Madison Anderson, spokeswoman for Stefanik's office, told Military.com.

The acknowledgment of the soldier's upcoming graduation is a significant milestone, but she is not a Green Beret until she actually goes through the graduation ceremony, officials said. The waiting period until graduation can be a dangerous time for Special Forces candidates, because any administrative or disciplinary action can jeopardize their eligibility to graduate the esteemed course, a second Army source, familiar with the Q-Course requirements, told Military.com.

Army Special Forces is one of the last remaining male-only communities after former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter officially opened all jobs involving direct combat to women in late 2015.

In 2015, then-Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first two female soldiers to successfully graduate from Army Ranger School, a physically and mentally punishing 61-day course previously reserved for male soldiers.

There has been one woman who previously completed requirements of the Army Special Forces Course. In 1980, Capt. Kate Wilder met requirements to graduate, but was not permitted to graduate. Though she finally got her graduation certificate, she never ultimately served in an SF unit, and the Army moved afterward to prevent other women from attending the course.

The senior Defense Department official stressed that the standards of the Q-Course have not been altered in any way, and women have to meet all the same benchmarks that men do.

"I have always known USASOC to be a standards-based organization; they want to attract the top talent, and anyone who can meet these standards is welcomed in their formations," the official said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Related: For First Time in Decades, Female Soldier Completes Final Phase of Special Forces Training

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