In all this recent furor over female Rangers, I have not read or heard any references to Katie Wilder, the only female so far to attend the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course and be granted SF certification. Her SFQC class graduated in Aug of 1980. I do not know her class number.
According to sources within the SF community, Captain Wilder, while assigned to 5th Special Forces Group as a Military Intelligence officer, had submitted her packet to be accepted to SF training directly to the Special Warfare Center, the SF “School House,” responsible for command and control of all SF training, but was rejected. She submitted her packet again, through different channels, and then was accepted.
Captain Wilder was denied her SF qualification in a letter from SWC which she received toward the end of training. In response, Wilder filed a sexual discrimination complaint against the Special Warfare Center. She claimed in an interview with the Free Lance Star, in an article dated 22 August, 1980, that “The Special Forces course itself was not all that difficult for me” . . . “The difficult part was all the stumbling blocks thrown in my path by the Special Forces School” (SWC). Now, I have a problem with that. Anyone who tells me that the Special Forces Course was “Not all that difficult” loses credibility in my eyes. Portions of it about killed me, and I don’t know any SF men who would disagree with that. But, possibly this was true due to the fact that she was in the “Officers’ Course”.
The media has numerous times quoted Katie as saying that she served in Special Forces, which, technically, is true, but also gives the impression that she served on SF teams, which is not the case. After the Special Forces Qualification Course, Wilder was assigned, according to SF sources, to Military Intelligence training and duties at Fort Huachuca, New Mexico, and later to various MI units.
Wilder has claimed in interviews that she “spent four years in Special Forces and two of those years were spent with the 5th Special Forces Group.” Other SF sources say two years. Whatever. Without orders, or some sort of documentation, the issue is moot. The fact is that she was assigned to a Special Forces unit, to 5th SF Group, prior to the SFQC.
There were, of course, rumors and accusations of cheating, and that she failed the Land Nav portion of training, by dumping and hiding her rucksack, so she could cover more ground faster, and come back for it later. But, these sorts of things are not that uncommon during SFAS, or Hell Month, depending on when you went through that training. The only sin is getting caught.
The other main accusation against Wilder was in the final Robin Sage portion of the SF Course where it was rumored that she did not “carry her weight,” lacked tactical and weapons skills and that her leadership skills were questioned by several other students and “G’s”, or guerrillas, who in this case were Marines. But, the only ones who know about that for certain are the trainees and cadres who were there then. One would have to get their hands on the two investigations, done by SWC (the Special Warfare Center) and then by TRADOC (U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command), to possibly get to the bottom of that issue.
While at Ft Huachuca, in Feb 1981, the next year, Wilder was notified by TRADOC that she qualified for SF status. At that time she was also told that she was not authorized to wear the green beret. Wilder said in interviews that it was only fair that she be able to wear the beret, since she earned it.
This was true. If she had orders and a certificate saying she passed the SFQC, then she should have been able to wear a green beret . . . with the flash of the SF group she was assigned to. And that was the problem for Wilder. She was not assigned to an SF unit after the SFQC, and no one wears a green beret unless they are assigned to an SF unit. To my knowledge, reinforced by my recent research, Wilder never served in an SF unit after her departure from the SFQC, and never was on an SF team, not an A, B or C team, of any SF group, not even in an Intel company, platoon or detachment of any SF group. Had she been assigned to any SF group after the SFQC, in any capacity, then she would have, and should have, worn a green beret. Them’s the regs and rules.
It is key to note that soon after all this the SF tab came into existence, in the mid 1980s. I would be interesting to know if Katie Wilder ever got orders to wear the SF tab, or if she ever even requested said orders. She should be authorized to wear a “long tab,” given the fact that she has an SFQC certificate and qualifier.
Some within the SF community claim that she was never granted SF “qualification,” but only a “certificate of completion” for the SF Course. The TRADOC letter seemed to imply qualification. But, either Wilder or SWC would have to provide documentation to resolve that issue.
Wilder retired from the US Army in the 1990s as an lieutenant-colonel.
Rumors and stories within SF persisted that she used a loop hole to get into the course. There were, and still are, rumors of political influence in her support, to get her into and keep her in the course. It is true that her father was a retired colonel and that he supported her and her case, before and after the course. Over the years I’ve heard rumors that she had an aunt who was a congresswomen and an uncle who was a general. But, I have never been able to corroborate either of those. There have also been rumors that she was having sex with one or more training cadres, that she received special treatment and favors due to these relationships, and that she even blackmailed her lovers. But, these are common accusations when trying to derail a female in the military or corporate worlds and I find these stories highly unlikely. The point is that rumors have been thick over the years in regards to Katie Wilder, which has muddied the waters of the Wilder Affair with the SF community and the Army in general.
I have also heard a few SF guys over the years, officers and NCOs, who claim that they were in her class, or in classes before or after hers, say that she was treated unfairly and was not given a fair shake. One guy even told me, in the mid 80s, that she did well and earned her tab. These tellings were in team rooms or bars, with limited sets of ears within range, and were always in the minority. I have never seen similar tellings anywhere printed or online.
Soon after Katie departed Ft. Bragg and the SFQC, the SF Officers Course was abolished and officers began going through the same training as the enlisted men. This was important for a few reasons. SF training has changed a lot and often since the early 1960s and at times officers went through a “gentlemen’s course” that was easier than what the enlisted men went through. This might have contributed to some Katie-hatred within the officer ranks. But, overall, that was an improvement for Special Forces.
In 2008 Kathleen M. Wilder sued Michael Fumento, The Weekly Standard and News American Incorporated for defamation. Fumento wrote in an article, published in March, 2007, in The Weekly Standard, an article titled The Democrats’ Special Forces Fetish, that Wilder “never spent a day in an actual Special Forces unit.” Well, she did, was assigned to 5th Special Forces Group, prior to the SFQC, for at least two years, if not longer. The article also claimed she cheated in the SFQC. That issue, of ruck cacheing, is covered above.
What Fumento probably meant to say, and most certainly wished he had said, is that Wilder never was assigned to an SF team. Which is true. Fumento also wrote that a judge granted Wilder her green beret. Also, not true. That was, in fact, Gen. Donn Starry, Commander of TRADOC, who, after a “thorough investigation,” concluded that Wilder had been treated unfairly and should be granted her SFQC graduation certificate. This countermanded the decision of the SWC commander, Col. Ola Mize (an SF legend), not to award Wilder her SF certificate. Mize was forced to retire due to the whole ordeal, due to his refusal to award Wilder her SF certificate. This was yet another strike against Wilder within the SF community.
One problem I have with Fumento’s article is that in it he says that he failed out of the Land Nav portion of the Selection training, and later was offered the opportunity to try the SF Course again, but declined due to his disgust at the low standards he saw in the SF Course. Yeah. Whatever, bud. Every guy I’ve ever heard that from failed out of some difficult training and was making excuses. It’s a credibility issue.
Katie Wilder is relevant today because of the current and hotly debated issue of female Rangers and will different standards be allowed or granted to female trainees than male trainees? Will females carry lighter rucks and do fewer pull-ups? Are there any females who can carry 65 pound rucks, along with the males, over the same long distances? Will having females in SOF units, in all Combat Arms units, have impact on the effectiveness, cohesion and overall culture of these units, and if so, negative or positive? Will female trainees soon be showing up at BUDS? Will the U.S. Navy possibly soon have female SQUEALs…sorry, SEALs? Will the U.S. Army possibly soon have female Green Berets, women on U.S. Army Special Forces A-teams? And could all of this propagate the Apocalypse?
Before all that happens, we better answer some questions, such as if Katie Wilder proved that females should be allowed in SF, then why did that not happen? Or, if she proved that they should not, then why are we still debating and arguing about the issue?
It looks like things are headed that way and there are going to be a lot of people looking at the first women headed to and selected for the SFQC and BUDS, and those women better not file any suits, regardless of what happens, and be very careful about who they shag or shack up with. They should not speak at any Feminist or Clinton rallies, and should definitely not celebrate with any pink tab or trident cakes at any sort of graduation or celebration parties.
It might be possible for women to be integrated into SOF units, depending on many factors, but only if certain behaviors are adhered to and standards maintained. There are lines to be crossed, and then there are lines to be crossed. And United States Army Special Forces is definitely not at this time ready for any pink tabs or sparkly nails on any of its operators. But, it is high time that this issue is examined and decided, without all the diatribe and drama, by cool and rational minds, of soldiers of both genders, who are focused solely on the defense of this country, and not distracted by other agendas.