Women are bound for perhaps thousands of combat roles amid a mandated, military-wide integration, but the armed forces’ most coveted jobs — including Navy SEALS and Army Rangers — could remain segregated, male-only preserves largely due to concerns about sex, according to former special operations troops.

Some ex-military members contend sexual attractions and relations are inevitable if male and female Special Ops members are placed in self-contained groups (as small as 12 or two) for long periods in lonely places. Those encounters, they add, could spark competition, jealousy and general havoc within tight teams where mutual trust and a laser attention to detail keep those troops alive.

Brandon Webb, a former Navy SEAL who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, contends that potentially disruptive hookups will occur if women are assigned to what are now all-male Special Ops teams: “How do you practically expect men and women not to have sex together under extreme stress, a half a world away from America — and how does that affect unit effectiveness?”

While the major branches each have submitted precise plans to test, train and assign some women to combat by 2016, leaders of U.S. Special Operations Command won’t yet commit to opening their 15,497 jobs to females. They cite a certain disquiet — from the top of that exclusive service to the guys on the ground — about “culture” and “behavior” pitfalls potentially linked to integration.

“We haven’t made any decisions, whatsoever… There’s concerns (among the rank-and-file). And we all share those concerns,” said Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, director of force management and development for Special Ops, which has commissioned the RAND Corp. to survey its men about the social ripples of placing women in those jobs.

In a dangerous scenario, the integration of women into smaller SEAL or Ranger teams could devolve into unhealthy distractions between young men and young women, predict some ex-Special Ops members.

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“It can shift the focus of doing the job if everybody’s trying to get laid. I know it sounds incredibly juvenile, but it’s incredibly true,” said Jack Murphy, a former Airborne Ranger and Special Forces sergeant in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Throwing a woman in the middle of a team like that is just going to make the entire team useless because, in the end, there will be so much infighting, so much drama,” added Murphy, who now authors military thrillers, including “Reflexive Fire.”

Continue reading “Sexual distraction? The fear that may keep women out of Special Ops” over on NBSNews.com.

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

 (Featured Image Courtesy: DVIDS)