Policy & Strategy

Special ops forces fear standards will be lowered for women

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Men in U.S. special operations forces do not believe women can meet the physical and mental standards to join their ranks, and fear the requirements will be lowered to integrate them into the elite units, polling shows.

The surveys, reported by The Associated Press, found widespread concerns in special ops that Pentagon leaders would “capitulate to political pressure, allowing erosion of training standards.” 

Some women already in the elite forces expressed similar worries, the AP said. 

{mosads}The surveys are part of the Pentagon’s effort to integrate women into all military combat jobs by January 2016 or provide reasons why jobs should remain closed. 

Pentagon leaders, under Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, lifted the ban on combat jobs previously closed to women in 2012. 

The surveys were conducted as part of U.S. Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) efforts to integrate women into combat jobs, including the Navy SEALs and Army Delta Forces, which work in small teams in remote locations. 

One of the surveys, by RAND Corp., found concerns about women meeting the job demands, about an increase in sexual harassment or assault, and about women being treated differently than men. 

So far, about 7,200 positions within the special operations forces have been opened to women, according to the AP. For the first time, a female last year made it through training to become a pilot in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, a specialized unit known as “Night Stalkers” that flies behind enemy lines at night. 

Three more female pilots are going through initial training, as well as several dozens for other positions with the unit. 

Gen. Joseph Votel, head of SOCOM, said in an email last month to the special operations community said its leaders had done initial analysis, according to the AP. 

They are looking at the “social and cultural challenges” of integrating women into the special operations combat jobs, and will next analyze requirements for the jobs to make sure standards are accurate and gender neutral.

“We will continue in our commitment to provide the best manned, trained, and equipped special operations personnel to execute our nation’s most difficult and sensitive missions,” Votel said. “With that in mind, we can assure you that our high standards will not be lowered.”

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