The Navy’s First Female SEAL Officer Applicant Just Dropped Out

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The woman on track to become the first female Navy SEAL officer has voluntarily exited the training pipeline, multiple Naval Special Warfare Command sources have confirmed to Task & Purpose.


The female midshipman, identified by Military.com in July as a ROTC junior at an unnamed U.S. college, was the elite SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection (SOAS) program’s first female entrant since the Department of Defense lifted restrictions on female applicants for combat arms and special operations forces roles in 2016. 

Had she completed the three-week course, she would have been eligible for review by the NSW officer community manager and officer selection panel in September and, if selected, received orders by October to report to NSW’s grueling 24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training course.

“No women have entered the full training pipeline just yet,” a Navy official who declined to be identified told Task & Purpose. “She didn’t make it to BUD/S.” (NSW public affairs officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment).

The entrant, one of a handful of female applicants who have applied for elite special warfare roles, appears to have exited the training pipeline after completing just half of the command’s screening evaluations, sources told Task & Purpose. The first weeks of the program, which began on July 24 at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, include physical training with NSW Group 1 and a “mini” version of the BUD/S challenge that awaits the most qualified candidates.

The news of the entrant’s departure was first made public by Josh Cotton, a former Navy personnel research psychologist who worked for the Institute for Selection and Classification from 2009 until 2014. Cotton’s tenure with the institute focused on helping the branch screen sailors for various jobs; during his last 3.5 years with the ISC, Cotton worked with the NSWC helping officials refine screening evaluations like SOAS, BUD/S, and Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command, according to a DoD biography.

The first female officer candidate, alongside two female Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman program entrants, represented a significant milestone for a service branch that had, until the 2015 Pentagon guidance, excluded women from the SEALs and SWCC community.

Navy SEAL training is infamously challenging, with a 75% dropout rate for those who even make it to BUD/S, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. And according to the Navy official, NSWC is less concerned with the candidate’s failure and more concerned with her future service.

“People try and fail on their own merits, and we respect the individual for the risk,” he added. “And whatever happens, they’re doing it to serve and protect their country.”

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Photo via DoD
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Editor's note: A combat wounded veteran, Ryan served in the U.S. Army as an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 13th Armor Regiment. While deployed to Iraq in 2005, his vehicle was hit with an improvised explosive device buried in the road. He works as the Wounded Warrior Project's national Combat Stress Recovery Program director.

On Nov. 29, 2005, my life changed forever. I was a 24-year-old U.S. Army armor captain deployed to Taji, Iraq, when my vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. On that day, I lost two of my soldiers, Sgts. Jerry Mills and Donald Hasse, and I lost my right arm and left leg.

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