The U.S. Could Have Its First Female Navy SEALs By 2016

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 18 2013 10:03 AM

The U.S. Could Have Its First Female Navy SEALs By 2016

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During a Hell Week surf drill evolution, a Navy SEAL instructor assists students from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) class 245 with learning the importance of listening April 15, 2003 in Coronado, California.

Photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

The Associated Press this morning has an early look at the Pentagon's specific plans to remove the remaining restrictions that have kept female soldiers from combat and other positions near the front lines. The plans, likely to be formally unveiled later today, will include reviewing—and likely changing—the physical and mental standards that men and women need to meet in order to qualify for certain positions across the four branches, and would set one common standard for both sexes for each specific job.

The plans also include the rough outline for when women could become a Navy SEAL or Army Ranger, two of the most high-profile and demanding jobs within the military:

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Under the schedules military leaders delivered to [Defense Secretary Chuck] Hagel, the Army will develop standards by July 2015 to allow women to train and potentially serve as Rangers, and qualified women could begin training as Navy SEALs by March 2016 if senior leaders agree. Military leaders have suggested bringing senior women from the officer and enlisted ranks into special forces units first to ensure that younger, lower-ranking women have a support system to help them get through the transition.
The Navy intends to open up its Riverine force and begin training women next month, with the goal of assigning women to the units by October. While not part of the special operations forces, the coastal Riverine squadrons do close combat and security operations in small boats. The Navy plans to have studies finished by July 2014 on allowing women to serve as SEALs, and has set October 2015 as the date when women could begin Navy boot camp with the expressed intention of becoming SEALs eventually.
Army officials plan to complete gender-neutral standards for the Ranger course by July 2015. Army Rangers are one of the service’s special operations units, but many soldiers who go through Ranger training and wear the coveted tab on their shoulders never actually serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment. To be considered a true Ranger, soldiers must serve in the regiment.

Women currently make up about 14 percent of the nation's 1.4 million active military personnel. The AP has more on the Pentagon's planned changes here.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.