First Ever Female Navy SEAL Candidate Quits Officer SEAL Screening Course Days after Starting
Published on August 6, 2017
Josh Cotton, Ph.D.
Global Manager of Strategic Talent Analytics at Flowserve Corporation
“Navy SEAL officers are expected to lead from the front in all categories, especially in physical fitness.” Official Naval Special Warfare Website
On Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 the first female to gain entry to the SEAL Officer Assessment & Selection (SOAS) program voluntarily quit. The three-week course began Monday, July 24th, 2017 in San Diego, California home of the Navy SEAL training base, and by Wednesday it was all over for this candidate. Making history, in the summer of 2017 the US Navy accepted its first female officer candidate into the Naval Special Warfare officer screening pipeline called the SEAL Officer Assessment & Selection program, which is a very early stage screening process designed specifically for SEAL officer candidates.
Women were allowed entry into the Navy SEAL screening course in 2017 as a result of the DoD rule revision announced on December 3rd, 2015 allowing females access to any and all combat roles in the US military. However, similar to the way civilian employers are required to provide access to employment and promotion opportunities regardless of factors such as sex, race, and others, the US military is not required to staff combat roles with females, rather it is directly required to allow these brave women the chance to earn their way into these honorable and challenging jobs. Becoming a SEAL is a long process. Graduates of the SEAL Officer Assessment & Selection course earn the chance to be considered in a second stage process involving a selection panel. Those selected by the panel are offered the chance to complete the arduous BUD/S SEAL training course that includes the famous Hell Week – which is perhaps the most difficult military training week in the world. Completing BUD/S all but guarantees the Navy Sailor will become a US Navy SEAL, but completing BUD/S is still not the end of this long training program.
First, you need to know that women have been honorably serving in the US military for a long time and they deserve our respect and admiration, just as all veterans do. Second, you should also know that women have been serving in US Special Operations, and in combat roles long before it hit the news. One incredibly successful program is called the Female Engagement Teams (FETs). Naval Special Warfare, the organization that runs the Navy SEALs has had Female Engagement Teams for years and these all female teams have increased the capability and the success of US military operations in combat zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
So the question of ‘do women have something to contribute on the battlefield’ has already been answered…the answer is yes! But possibly what many have not considered is the question of whether men and women each have something unique to contribute to US military success on the battlefield.
Diversity is power. Diversity of thought, which is often linked to diversity of background, can make groups stronger. As a leader, if you are always surrounded by people who think similarly to you, you are failing. One way to get more value-adding diversity in your civilian organization is to hire more veterans who bring unique skills and perspectives that are of tremendous worth to civilian companies. But diversity should not be given more value than it brings. Diversity for diversity’s sake, loses sight of the goal of improvement. In order for organizations to achieve greater success, the goal should always be about becoming better, and not simply adopting programs and methods. Programs and methods are tools, not goals. You can’t build a house without a hammer, but buying a hammer does not mean you will build a house.
In the context of US Special Operations, are men and women unique? Soon enough, you will have the chance to see for yourself over the next few years as women will continue to attempt to gain entry to the most elite military combat roles the US military has to offer…programs like the Navy SEALs, Navy SWCCs, and Army Green Berets. Will females and males see different success rates in training? If so, what does that mean?
Follow the Data
A few years ago I advised Naval Special Warfare on the creation of the SEAL Officer Assessment & Selection (SOAS) program, the same course the first female SEAL officer candidate failed to complete last week. Around the same time as the creation of the SOAS, I advised the Naval Special Warfare Women In Service Research group (NSW-WISR), the cross-functional team tasked with evaluating the viability and impact of removing the restrictions barring women from applying to become Navy SEALs and Navy SWCCs. As is normal for me, I try to base my advice on the data, and the research. So I prepared for my advising by conducting predictive analytics and reading research reports from others. I ran analytics on BUD/S data, SEAL applicant data, and data collected on both men and women at the Navy Recruit Training Command facility in Great Lakes, Illinois (RTC, commonly called Boot Camp). I built predictive models and formed data driven opinions. I looked at research from the US military, and I also examined research from our allies who had already experimented with women serving in direct-action combat roles that had at one time been reserved for males only.
I share with you, what I shared with my SEAL clients years ago. On average, less than 20% of men who start the Navy’s process to become SEALs actually succeed. Based on the research, and based on the data, the most likely outcome is that female candidates will fail to complete US Special Operations training programs at a significantly higher rate than male candidates, and will incur a higher frequency of physical injuries. Regardless of what that makes you or I feel, that is simply what the data predicts. I share this with you to raise awareness and propose that more consideration be taken on the unique contributions that men and women have to offer.
Honor Those Who Serve
I personally thank all those serving our Nation in the US military, both the men and women. I also thank their friends and family for supporting them. I also thank all the great people who serve these brave members of our society through nonprofits, as government civil servants, contractors, professors, medical staff, and the many for-profit companies helping veterans. Men and women serving in uniform deserve our respect and support. They represent the best of us as a Nation.
Dr. Joshua D. Cotton is the creator of both the Elite Performance Indicator personality and competency assessment (EliteIndicator.com) and the Sales Pro Index sales screening assessment (SalesProIndex.com), a Fortune 500 Management Consultant (IntelligentGS.com), a Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, a former Navy Personnel Research Psychologist, and the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Foundation for VETS (FoundationForVETS.org). Dr. Cotton is available for consulting and can be reached via any of the websites listed above.