Why the only woman training to be a Navy SEAL dropped out

The only woman in the Navy SEAL training pipeline has dropped out, a Navy special warfare official confirmed Aug. 11.

The female midshipman voluntarily decided to not continue participating in a summer course that’s required of officers who want to be selected for SEAL training, Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton, a Naval special warfare spokesman, told The Associated Press. The Navy has not released the woman’s name, part of a policy against publicly identifying SEALs or candidates for the force.

No other woman has started the long process required to become a Navy SEAL, Walton said.

Another woman has set her sights on becoming a Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, another job that recently opened to women. They often support the SEALs but also conduct missions of their own using state-of-the art, high-performance boats. She has started the various evaluations and standard Navy training.

U.S. Navy SEAL candidates from class 284 participate in Hell Week at the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California. (U.S. Navy photo)

Officials have said it would be premature to speculate when the Navy will see its first female SEAL or Special Warfare Combatant Crewman.

The entry of women in one of the military’s most elite fighting forces is part of ongoing efforts to comply with then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s directive in December 2015 to open all military jobs to women, including the most dangerous commando posts.

That decision was formal recognition of the thousands of female servicewomen who fought in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in recent years, including those who were killed or wounded.

The woman dropped out of the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection program. It is open to Naval academy and Navy ROTC midshipmen and cadets during the summer before their senior year.

A Navy SEAL instructor assists students from BUD/S class 245 with learning the importance of listening during a Hell Week surf drill evolution. (ENS Bashon Mann, Public Affairs Officer Naval Special Warfare Center.)

The three-week-long program in Coronado, across the bay from San Diego, tests participants’ physical and psychological strength along with water competency and leadership skills. The program is the first in-person evaluation of a candidate who desires to become a Navy SEAL officer, and it allows sailors to compete against peers in an equitable training environment.

All sailors must go through the program before being selected to take part in SEAL basic training, a six-month program so grueling that 75 percent of candidates drop out by the end of the first month.

The services have been slowly integrating women into previously male-only roles. Those in special operations are among the most demanding jobs in the military. Two women in 2015 graduated from the Army’s grueling Ranger course.

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