In July of 2020, a female National Guard Soldier donned her Green Beret. A Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (18C), will be the first woman to have completed a Special Operations pipeline and join an operational team since all jobs within the military opened to women. She will be, moreover, the first female graduate of the modern Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC).

But she is not the first Green Beret.

Captain Katie Wilder graduated from the officer’s version of the SFQC in the early 1980s. But her graduation and right to wear the coveted Green Beret has been mired in controversy and rumors. For decades there wasn’t an authoritative, evidence-based piece to prove once and for all that Cpt. Wilder had indeed earned the honor of wearing the Green Beret (and the Special Forces tab once it was authorized).

S0, SOFREP reached out to Cpt. Wilder for an interview. She gladly accepted our request and I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful, long conversation with her. (She retired as Lieutenant Colonel but for the sake of consistency I’ll be referring to her with the rank she had during her Special Forces adventure.).

Cpt. Wilder was a Military Intelligence Officer who served two years at the Special Warfare Center with an assignment to the Think Tank as the Threat Manager — an office within S-2 (intelligence, security, and information operations). Her next job was with the 5th Special Forces Group, where she was personally asked for by name by the Group Commander, (then) at Fort Bragg, NC. She remembers being well-liked, working hard, and attending the Officers’ Club. She truly enjoyed that assignment.

Cpt. Wilder applied for Special Forces training. Her application was denied at every command because she was a woman. Yet, at the time, there was nothing in the regulations stating that a woman couldn’t apply for Special Forces training — it was just assumed. So her appeal was successful, and she was set to attend the SF Officers Course.

She was the first woman to graduate what is now known as the SFQC and become a Green Beret. Initially, she was denied qualification as a Special Forces officer and denied the award of the Additional Skill Identifier (ASI) 5G because Colonel Mize determined that she had failed Phase III, then Robin Sage. At the time, 18 series was not a MOS yet.

According to regulation, the SF Tab and Green Beret are awarded to all personnel who complete the SFQC course, dated June 1st, 1988, or its predecessors and who were subsequently awarded, SQI “S” or “3” in MOS 11B, 11C, 12B, 05B, 91B, or ASI “5G” or “3.” (At the time, the Special Forces 18 series Military Occupation Specialty didn’t exist.) Therefore, if Cpt. Wilder were active today, she would be wearing the SF Tab and Green Beret.