When Defense Secretary Ashton Carter opened combat occupation roles for women in the military, it also allowed women to volunteer for the various Special Operations units. These units in the military that are not only difficult to get into but even more so to complete the grueling courses. Carter admitted that the differences in the sexes will have some occupational specialties difficult for women to fill. But they will face additional challenges.

Not only will women have to complete the SFAS (Assessment and Selection) course and the SFQC (Special Forces Qualification Courses) which are very difficult in their own right, but they’ll frequently have to battle cultural prejudices that exist in many hotspots around the globe where women warriors are not a common sight. And the bias among the soldiers already assigned to SF units that women can’t handle the task.

The Special Operations Command first allowed women on operations with the Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) and those have proven successful. But now real heavy lifting begins when female officers will have the opportunity to command A-teams if they pass the Q-course.

Officers in the Army can apply for Special Forces assignments once a year. In April of 2016, the Army received 860 packets for consideration to the Special Forces, PSYOPS, and Civil Affairs Regiments. 71 women applied for Special Forces duty, of which 65 were considered and two were accepted.

Col. Nestor A. Sadler, the commandant of the Special Forces Regiment at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center School at Fort Bragg, confirmed that the two female candidates had accepted invitations for the SFAS class.

“Two females met the requirements for SFAS and were nominated by the ARSOF [Army Special Operations Forces selection] panel to attend SFAS. One candidate declined her invitation and withdrew from the process. Special Forces Branch asked why. On the last day to accept or decline the invitation, she changed her mind and accepted the invitation to attend SFAS,” Col. Sadler said.

At a recent Special Forces Association conference in Jacksonville, Col. Sadler said that the Army selection panel had reviewed the application packets of seven female officers. Of those, two were approved for the SFAS class, he said.

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Maj. Faulkenberry said that the two female officers and 338 male officers aiming to join Special Forces first must complete the grueling, weeding-out process of Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFA), which last 21 days.

“It’s a challenging and scientifically based process that allows the regiment to predict a candidate’s ability to succeed in the intensive training that’ll follow, as well as operate in a team environment,” the major said.- Washington Times

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This will be an interesting development to monitor as it goes forward. Two women passed the US Army Ranger School program last year. However, none have been assigned to the Ranger Regiment yet. The Special Forces program carries with it a new MOS so they’ll be assigned to an SF unit upon successful completion. But that won’t be the end of the story but just the beginning.

Featured image: US Army photo

This article was originally published on SpecialOperations.com