The Navy Seals are now open to women but no one has stepped forward

Two years after the Navy’s elite special warfare operating billets were opened to women, the service could be on the verge of seeing their first female candidates step up to the challenge. That’s what Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke told the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee during his Feb. 14 testimony.

Burke and other service personnel chiefs were asked to give Senator Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) an update on the participation of women in billets that, until recently, were closed to them. Burke told the committee that two women, one officer and one enlisted, are getting closer to taking a shot at becoming special operators.

A soon-to-be-ensign recently qualified physically for the SEALs, but has yet to commit to the additional screening, known as the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection program.

Last year, a female midshipman, who was the first to attempt the program, dropped out.

“We have one enlisted woman that will start special warfare combat crew training in May,” Burke said. “She’s in her delayed entry program.”

Burke went on to describe that between boot camp and any of the diver, explosive ordnance, SEAL or special warfare boat operator courses, all candidates, men and women, go through a preliminary screening and conditioning program at Great Lakes. The program was put into place over a decade ago to reduce attrition and has been quite successful.

Burke said that the Navy has actively sought out women who might be interested in these programs since limitations were lifted in early 2016, and is continuing those efforts.

“One of our predominant ways of entry into the SEAL program is folks that are already in recruit training command or at the Naval Academy or in ROTC,” Burke said. “So there’s already an internal Navy program for attracting folks to apply.”