On July 15, 2021, the U.S. Navy held a graduation ceremony for those graduating from its intensive 37-week training course to become a Special Warfare combatant-craft crewman (S.W.C.C.). Of the 17 sailors to receive their pins, one stood out for a special reason: they were a woman.
A special graduation
Special Warfare combatant-crew crewmen are boat operators who transport Navy SEALs to their destinations and conduct their own missions. The new graduate, who is not being identified as per Navy policy, will head one of the unit’s three special boat teams.
“Becoming the first female to graduate from a Naval Special Warfare training pipeline is an extraordinary accomplishment and we are incredibly proud of our teammate,” Rear Admiral H.W. Howard III, commander of Naval Special Warfare, told the Associated Press. “Like her fellow operators, she demonstrated the character, cognitive and leadership attributes required to join our force.
“She and her fellow graduates have the opportunity to become experts in clandestine operations, as well as manned and unmanned platforms to deliver distinctive capabilities to our Navy, and the joint force in defense of the nation,” he added.
Since female soldiers have been allowed to apply for the S.W.C.C. and to become a SEAL, only 18 have tried out. Of that total, 14 did not complete the course and three are still training, one to join the S.W.C.C. and two to become SEALs. According to the Navy, only about 35 percent of those who begin the training actually complete it.
A grueling training course
The training to become a Special Warfare combatant-craft crewman begins once someone has completed the Navy’s recruit bootcamp. This includes a two-month preparatory course and a three-week orientation at the Naval Warfare Center in Coronado, California.
From there, recruits must complete another seven-week stint, where they undergo physical conditioning, safety training, and learn basic water and navigation skills. After that course is complete, the recruits must then endure a 72-hour event known as “The Tour.” It’s a test of physical toughness and grit, and is the point at which most candidates fail.
The Tour is followed by another seven weeks of training to learn the basics of being a crewman, including weapons, combat and communications instruction. S.W.C.C. operators are trained extensively on watercraft and weapons tactics, as in the field it’s their job to facilitate infiltration and exfiltration on other special operators.
It is then that they move on to the intermediate level seamanship course, which also runs seven weeks. Finally, after undergoing survival, resistance, escape and evasion training, and enrolling in a cultural course, they’re ready to graduate.
Following graduation, sailors either undergo further specialized training or directly report to a Special Boat Team.
Women in the U.S. Military
Women have been allowed to fill the military’s most dangerous and difficult positions since 2015. That same year, two female soldiers graduated from the Army’s Ranger School.
One year ago, a female soldier became the first woman to successfully complete the Army’s Special Forces course and join one of the Green Beret teams. At present, one other has finished training and is scheduled to report to her group next month, while another will report to her team after attending the Military Free-Fall School this August.
There are currently two female enlistees in the Air Force’s Special Warfare training. One has completed the assessment and selection process and will be eligible for assignment as soon as she finishes the rest of her training, while the other is still in the preparatory course.
No female recruit has ever successfully completed the Marines’ special operations training. While nine have attempted it, only two made it through the second phase. However, neither met performance expectations and didn’t get selected to move forward.