A woman has joined a United States Navy special forces unit for the first time, the newest gender line to have fallen in the five years since women have been able to apply for any combat job in the military.
The Navy said Thursday the woman is the first female graduate from a special warfare training pipeline that feeds Navy SEALs and other elite commando. A Navy spokesman told The Associated Press that the woman will not be identified, a standard guideline for members of special forces.
In a statement, Rear Adm. Hugh W. Howard III, commander of US Naval Special Warfare Command, said the woman’s graduation was “an extraordinary achievement.”
“Like her colleagues, she has demonstrated the character, cognitive and leadership skills required to join our force,” he said.
The Navy said in a press release that the soldier was among 17 graduates of what would become what she calls crew members for special war aircraft. She will be part of a personnel team that trains at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California.
SWCC personnel specialize in what the Navy calls “covert deployment and extraction” that require expertise not only in weapons and navigation, but also in engineering and skydiving. Only about 35 percent of SWCC candidates have degrees, the Navy said.
The woman, who graduated Thursday, will be among the operators of three special boat teams that transport Navy SEALs and carry out their own secret missions, The AP reported.
According to a CNN report, she is one of 18 women who tried to become SWCC or SEAL; 14 of them did not complete the 37-week special war training course. Three other women are currently being trained to become Navy SEALs or SWCC operators, CNN said, citing a Navy spokesman.
Navy officials in the United States were not immediately available for comment early Friday.
The proportion of women in the US military has been rising steadily for decades. When the draft ended in 1973, women made up 2 percent of the troops and 8 percent of the officer corps in the U.S. military, according to an analysis of the Department of Defense’s Council on Foreign Relations data that did not include statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard. By 2018, those numbers had risen to 16 and 19 percent, respectively.