Should Women Be SEALs?


Women have been in plenty of gunfights. For more than a decade now, they’ve been banging it out on the battlefield. I know there are women out there with the strength, agility, stamina and utter mental toughness to get through BUD/S, the SEALs’ legendary basic-training program with its grueling Hell Week and 75-percent wash-out rate for the men who try.

If you doubt me, check out the female leaderboard at next month’s CrossFit Games—or that young woman who’s been quietly knocking out weighted pull-ups at your neighborhood gym. Being physically fit is women’s work too.

This comes up, of course, now that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced an official end to the ban on women in combat. The various parts of the U.S. military, including elite tactical units like the Navy SEALs, have been asked to weigh in on this long-expected change. After 14 years as a SEAL officer, the past four running all phases of basic and advanced SEAL training, I have to say, “I’m not sold yet.”.

The reason has almost nothing to do with the old concern that “a woman wouldn’t be able to pull an injured teammate off a battlefield.” I’m a big guy, 230 pounds without my body armor. In full commando gear, I’m 280 or 290. If I get shot, it’s the rare SEAL who can throw me over his shoulder like a bag of coal. If it takes two or three of them, that’s who will drag me out to safety. This is not an individual sport we’re playing here, even though SEALs are the battlefield Olympians. We live and die as a team.



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