An Open Letter to the Future Women of Special Operations
by Leo Jenkins
At least once a day I receive a message from someone with aspirations to join Special Operations seeking advice. It occurred to me recently that over the years and thousands of inquiries, I have yet to receive one from a female. Make no mistake, woman have been playing an integral role in not just our military, but also our Special Operations Forces (SOF) for some time already. The official integration, however, has a significant number of current and former members of this elite community expressing concerns. Rather than once again fruitlessly expressing my personal opinion, I would like to provide some advice directly to the first wave of female SOF hopefuls and their inevitable successors. It is fruitless to argue for or against the assimilation. I am neither advocate nor antagonist.
I’m not going to get terribly deep here because I already laid out what I consider to be the seven steps to improving your chances of passing a Special Operations selection process. What I will add to this for females is that there are women already actively working in these professions in the UK and Canada. I can not speak intelligently on the personal hardships they endured. I would advise that you reach out to them with specific questions regarding lessons learned.
Additionally, there are women who have been attached to Ranger and Special Forces units for years called C.S.T.s (Cultural Support Teams) Their insight will be invaluable for you, you should be seeking that advice now.
Equality is an ever increasingly misunderstood concept. I have long held the belief that if you have to scream that you are in charge, you really aren’t in charge at all. Same goes for equality. If you have to scream about how equal you are, guess what, you’re failing to prove anything. I never once saw a fellow Ranger get respect by demanding it. If you want anyone to know you are equal, shut up about equality and work. The woman who have had success before you, paving the way in certain positions, have done just that. The ones who have made it the most difficult for you now are the ones who have attempted to shout their way into a position of respect.
The other pervasive confusion regarding equality is the difference between equality of opportunity and the equality of outcome. Let’s clear this up, you don’t have the right to be a Ranger, SEAL, member of the infantry, or anything else. You have the equal right to show up on day one. The cadre, in turn, has the right to fail you.
Any person who has gone through BUDS, RASP, or SFAS have seen guys singled out and destroyed verbally and physically until they either quit or step up. The people in charge of these selections are professional assholes. They are going to be exceptionally mean to you. It isn’t because you are a female, it’s because it is their job and, as previously stated, they are professionals. If and when you fail, it isn’t because they were out to get you, it’s because you didn’t effectively show you belong. Depending on what infraction eliminates you, you will likely receive the opportunity to “recycle” to the beginning of the course or current phase of training. This happens to 70-80% of men the first time around. It doesn’t mean you are being treated any other way but equal.
Reality of the position
It is important to discuss the purpose of such professions as Army Ranger, Navy SEAL or infantry soldier. These positions are often glorified in the media. Shiny medals, fancy patches, special color hats, and cool tactical gear permeate the imaginations of those outside these communities. I’m going to let you in on a trade secret, none of that shit fucking matters at all. None of it. Recruitment posters lie to you. Television and movies lie to you. As a hopeful I know what you are thinking, “I’m joining to make a difference.”
Here is the harsh reality, when you volunteer yourself for these positions, your function is to kill. Your job, your purpose, at its core, is to bring an unparalleled level of violence to the throat of the enemy. Your function is to preserve the way of life of those behind and beside you by cutting down those in front of you. You can’t just accept that fact, you have to embrace it. You have to be so filled with aggression that you want to take the life of another human being. If you’re half-hearted about this, Special Operations or the infantry is not the place for you.
Studies have shown females sustain physical injury during training at twice the rate of men, as well as are susceptible to an elevated risk of post traumatic stress. In fact, you are more than twice as likely to experience post traumatic stress than your male counterpart. During a conversation in 2006 with an individual employed as a special operations psychological doctor, I learned that it is estimated that over 90% of the the entire Ranger Regiment has experienced events which have made them highly susceptible to post traumatic stress; many of whom admitted to displaying symptoms of at the time.
According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, six to twelve percent of males are injured per month in basic training where 30 percent per month report injury during Naval Special Warfare training. It is important to note that this number is likely significantly lower due to the fact that reporting an injury in special warfare training has a different outcome than reporting injury in basic training.
If rate of female injury in basic training compared to male is double and injury occurrence is three to five times higher (at least) in special operations training, the probability you will sustain a lasting injury during SOF training is almost guaranteed. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to try out. Rather you need to understand that your health will be compromised in pursuit of this occupation.