Our military forces have been in combat non-stop since 9/11. They’ve shown that they’ve been equal to the task and have performed as we’ve come to expect from our armed forces. However, the ongoing conflicts have seen increased leanings on our Special Operations Forces, who, despite being just a fraction of the overall force, are conducting combat operations at a rate far greater than their numbers.

The operational tempo is insanely high and we’re seeing the results of that creep into the force. PTSD, suicides, substance abuse, and family issues from having to deploy so many times are taking a toll. The stress of constant combat deployments is a very real issue that the services are trying to work thru. And in addition, they’ll have other issues to deal with. Not in the future but now the very foundation of the Special Operations Forces is subject to change.

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. Women have served in combat areas and performed well in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been 160 that have paid the ultimate price. But there is a vast difference between women allowed to serve in combat and going on special missions and women who will be assigned to Special Forces A-teams, SEAL Teams, as well as MARSOC and AFSOC units.

Women have already performed special operations and have gone on missions.  The Special Operations Command first allowed women on operations with the Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) and those have been successful at times. Women were able to gather intelligence from Afghan women, something that was rarely done before. But many of the male operators on the missions consider them a hindrance. But remember the CSTs were not operators from the units, just attached to them. The training that is open to them will change that.

These special ops units in the military are not only difficult to get into but even more so to complete the courses. Carter admitted as such when he said that the differences in the sexes will have some occupational specialties difficult for women to fill.

Now women must complete the SFAS (Special Forces Assessment and Selection) course and the SFQC (Special Forces Qualification Courses), BUDS, Ranger et al which is very difficult. Can the majority of women physically handle the task of completing the courses? No, but neither can most men. Special Operations units are very demanding so their qualification courses are very tough. The standards must remain the same regardless of the failure rate to maintain the proper level of competence to complete missions. Any kind of lowering of standards will erode the effectiveness of the force.

Physically, these courses place a tremendous reliance on upper body strength and the ability to carry a heavy rucksack for long distances and then go into combat. There are serious doubts that women will attain the standards of the men. Then there is also the very real question of whether a woman could carry a wounded team member out of harms’ way if he/she were to go down. Granted there will be some women that can meet the challenge, two recently passed the US Army Ranger School and while they aren’t members of the Ranger Regiment, there is a chance of either being assigned at some point. How will the reaction be when women go from attached to being members of special operations units? According to the data, not well.

US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) polled their members and asked about allowing women into their MOS specialties and their units. And 85 percent of the operators were against women being allowed into their specialty and 71 percent against allowing women into their units.