The U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets may have their first female member in the next few weeks, as an enlisted female National Guard soldier has already completed a majority of the special forces qualification “Q course.”
The U.S. Army Special Operations Command released little information about the female soldier’s identity, citing security concerns. Military officials did tell the New York Times that the female soldier’s graduation from the “Q course” as a Special Forces engineer sergeant is nearly certain at this stage in the process, though some soldiers do occasionally fail in the latest stages of the course.
The female soldier is one of only a few females to have actually 24-day pre-assessment that comes before the “Q course” itself. The pre-assessment process is designed to assess fundamental soldiering skills like land navigation and marching under a full combat load. Special Forces supervisors then determine if the proficiency shown by a soldier in the pre-assessment is adequate to continue on to the “Q Course.”
The length of the “Q Course” reportedly varies according to the job specialty within the team for which a soldier is training. The courses include those for specialties such as intelligence and operations, weapons, medical, engineering and communications.
Another female soldier has also passed the pre-assessment, but is reportedly working through a longer “Q Course” process as a prospective Special Forces medical sergeant.
The Pentagon officially opened up combat roles to women in 2016. Thus far more than 700 women have gone on to serve in previously restricted combat roles. In 2017 a woman was accepted into the 75th Ranger Regiment, and more than a dozen women have passed Ranger school. Among those to have passed Ranger school is the Army’s first female infantry officer, Capt. Kristen M. Griest.
The topic of women and men serving together in combat roles has been a continued topic of debate among military leaders. In 2018, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the “jury is out” on whether opening combat roles to women was a good idea.
“This is a policy that I inherited, and so far the cadre is so small, we have no data on it,” Mattis said in 2018 to an audience of Virginia Military Institute cadets. “We’re hoping to get data soon. There are a few stalwart young ladies who are charging into this, but they are too few.”
Women have attempted to join the Green Berets since 2016, but the Special Forces have remained one of the last holdouts to female entrants.
The Green Berets mission set largely involves embedding within a countries local population and can see tasks ranging from building rapport among the locals to training and leading counter insurgencies and carrying out raids and unconventional warfare in enemy-controlled territory.
The mission of the Green Berets often places its members close to harm’s way. Earlier this month, two Green Berets of the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) were killed and others were injured in what was described as an insider attack by supposedly friendly local forces that trained and fought alongside the Green Berets.