There aren’t women going through Special Forces training—yet. Is it possible to do this without lowering the standard or deviating from the standard somewhere? I’m not sure. But it’s worth a real conversation. What’s the best way to do this? It’s not just about the physical demands of serving in Special Forces. In fact, I think the hardest part of the lifestyle is the emotional strength required, not the physical feats. If someone goes through the training to prove themselves, but doesn’t possess the emotional and mental discipline to get beyond that point, they might end up unhappy when they’re operational. That way of life demands a lot more than your ability to ruck, run, shoot, move, and communicate.
I’ve heard from those who know that Ranger School is forever changed, and the challenge sought by those attending Ranger School has since been downgraded. There’s a strong opposition in the Army SOF community to integrating women, and more specifically, to modifying the standard. The standard is based on operational research and is not meant to be hard, but is still necessary.
Are there niche roles for women in SOF? Probably, and there are already female engagement teams. Women are highly successful and meaningful to our intelligence apparatus and have been for some time. However, orders are laws in a way, and the entire community has been sentenced to implement women into special operations. I have to ask: Why now?
During selection, some events I encountered were so distracting or so taxing, I’m sure they’ll be diffused or removed. Maybe the course was destined to change in light of the new generation of recruits. After all, they are different. Still, that saddens me. The hardest parts of Special Forces training required impervious discipline to suck it up and make it through. Our day of Hell doing physical training with giant logs was probably one of the worst days of my life, physically. I was puking, suffering from motion sickness, and was compelled to put the vomit in my pocket to “carry the weakness with me.” It seems so stupid now, but it was a gut check then. Now, I’ve gone through worse in my life since then, but many opted to voluntarily withdraw that day. Those types of tests of fortitude are critical to producing a mentally and emotionally strong soldier. No doubt it will be assumed irrelevant to the standard, and thus scrapped and set aside as something that might be used again one day.
What else will need to go? I’ve heard that the average soldier is more than aware that he or she can complain to the inspector general if they feel wronged, merit or not, and maybe see results. If that’s you, then please leave the Army. Being in the military is not about that. To the new people, it sucked for all of us. We, collectively, would like it to suck for you too.
Men and women are physically different. This is a fact. I know it seems there are new rules and norms, but nature is uncaring and consistent. So if the standard is enforced, the standard pass criteria for events must be fully applied. The events I did, that counted, probably had some subjectivity because we were getting crushed doing other stuff. Today, I hope they’re by the book and exceptions aren’t made.
In some ways, women in SOF might be a good thing. It’s a fresh, different perspective and a new dynamic to introduce to the battlefield. That new dynamic could mean new capabilities we have yet to consider. But I’m very concerned that standards will change in one way or another. We’re already losing traditional and historically significant events in training that make the experience and weed out the weak. We do not need weakness in the force. We need the type of people who can make it through this stuff. That’s not an average person, it’s not everyone, and it may not be you. Yet there are many out there who can succeed when faced with this level of adversity.
But if the standard changes, how will we find those people and groom them? A good analogy is a seemingly slacker student who passes every class and does with good marks, without fail. We don’t need someone who can ace the test; we need someone who can get away with not paying attention most of the course, stay up a few days straight, and figure out a way to either pass or ace the exam by resourcefulness and sheer will. In training and in the unit, that same person will learn to be diligent and prepared, and will be all the more powerful and competent.
I don’t think I would mind serving on a team with women. But I have to consider my personality and how that could get confusing at times. I am impulsive and a risk-taker. That’s who I am, and I was hardly alone in the unit. I’ve learned in life that I might need someone who is like me. I put these things together in my head, and I don’t see how that possible team relationship isn’t complicated. I’ve never really been able to predict the behavior of others.
I hear they have sent out a ‘women in SOF’ survey nearly every month. The majority opposes it. So this is a top-down directive. It’s political.
I don’t know how I feel about all of this. But I feel it’s wrong to order the force to incorporate women under a tight timeline when women are fundamentally different, and therefore require further consideration and care to fully integrate into the current system. I’m not against women in SOF; I’m against a mandate to envelop them into a system that has only accounted for men since its inception. So far, I don’t think any women have even passed the initial board process. I’m equally unsure if, culturally, the force is ready to get into a stack with women as operators.