By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2013 – With women already providing direct support in special operations, officials are studying how to open more positions that currently are open only to men, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said here today.
Navy Adm. William H. McRaven touched on the future of women in special operations during remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 24th Annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced last week that the 1994 policy that excluded women from serving in direct ground combat positions is rescinded.
“We have had women supporting direct special operations for quite some time,” McRaven noted today. “So I am fully supportive of Secretary Panetta and the chairman’s decision to do this -- and frankly, so were all the service chiefs and combatant commanders.”
Special operations forces include a number of women with specialized language, cultural and special skills training, but McRaven acknowledged that Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and other “door-kicking” special operations units have never included women. Socom leaders have an opportunity over the next few years to assess how to open the command’s ranks to women, McRaven said.
“I’m required to report back to the secretary, by the first quarter of [fiscal 2016], a plan on how to integrate them,” he added.
The new guidance requires that standards be gender-neutral, the admiral noted. “We never had gender standards, … because we had no female population. … We had an all-male population that was going to become Rangers, or SEALs, or infantrymen,” he said. “So that was the standard.”
McRaven said he and his staff are looking forward to figuring out ways to integrate women into direct special operations roles.
“I guarantee you, there will be females out there that will come to [basic underwater demolition/SEAL] training or be Rangers … and will do a phenomenal job,” he said.