Women for the first time will be able to become Navy SEALs, another milestone for women in the military, the Navy's top officer announced Tuesday.
Adm. Jon Greenert, chief of Naval Operations, said that as long as women meet the requisite standards and pass the rigorous training, they should be granted the opportunity to join the Navy’s most elite teams.
"Why shouldn't anybody who can meet these [standards] be accepted? And the answer is, there is no reason," Greenert told Defense News. "So we're on a track to say, 'Hey, look, anybody who can meet the gender non-specific standards, then you can become a SEAL.'"
Navy SEAL teams, considered the service's most selective and physically demanding, conduct special operations and are prepared for combat on all surfaces -- sea, air and land -- the origin for the SEAL acronym. Navy SEALs were crucial to U.S. military operations against Cuba and the Soviet Union in the Cold War. They were active in the Vietnam War, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Navy SEALs also had a central role in the CIA operation that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
The announcement opening Navy SEALs to women comes one day after the Army said that, for the first time, two women will graduate from the Army’s prestigious Ranger School, a training program that prepares soldiers for front-line combat roles. In January, Army officials decided to open the program to women on an experimental basis. Like their Navy counterparts, they emphasized that as long as women met the standards and passed the training, there was no reason to bar them from participating.
"If you meet the standards that we've established, then you should be able to perform in that [military occupational specialty]. And I think that's where we're headed,” outgoing Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno said last week.
The Pentagon lifted an official ban on women serving in combat roles in 2013 and ordered leaders in each branch of the military to examine ways to open more doors, particularly in combat roles. Military leaders have begun to set gender-neutral standards for attaining certain jobs.
Many women were on the front lines in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which helped convince military leaders to re-evaluate long-standing restrictions.
By January, all branches of the military must allow women to serve in front-line combat positions.
On Tuesday, Army, Navy and Air Force officials all announced that they are prepared to honor that mandate and officially open all combat positions to women. The Marine Corps, meanwhile, may seek an exception for ground combat roles, despite the mandate.
Clarification: The headline on this story has been updated to reflect that women will be able to become Navy SEALS but currently are still unable to do so.