Fighting for gender equality in the workplace may seem like a thing of the past, but in the armed forces, women have still been pushing hard to be given the same opportunities as their male counterparts. A big milestone was reached recently when a female soldier became the first Green Beret in the U.S. Army. Though the Special Operations Command has not released the name of the soldier due to security restrictions, the event marks a major achievement for women in the military. Per the new guidelines brought on by the outbreak of the coronavirus in early 2020, the National Guard soldier graduated and earned her Green Beret at a socially distanced ceremony held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Who Are the Green Berets?
The Green Berets are a group of elite troops who wage unconventional warfare against the enemy. Also known as the U.S. Army Special Forces, the Green Berets got their nickname from the distinctive headgear that they wear. Much of the work they do requires high-level communication with foreign troops and therefore, unique and demanding training is required. Those who pass the training join an exclusive group that very few people have access to. Much of the work that they do is highly classified.
Women have been gradually integrating into the U.S. Armed Forces for about 100 years. In 1917, Loretta Walsh became the first woman to enlist in the army. However, it was not until 1948 that an official law was passed that would officially make women a permanent part of the military. And though females were welcome after 1948, it was not until 1976 that the first group of women was permitted to enroll in a military academy. Even today, only thirteen percent of the most recent class of West Point graduates were women.
In 2016, the Pentagon officially opened all combat positions to women. However, despite this major change, the Green Berets remained one of the all-male warfighting communities until now. Interestingly, the soldier who recently graduated is the first to become a Green Beret but she is not the first woman to attempt to join. Forty years ago, Capt. Kate Wilder, an intelligence officer at the time, had been serving within the special operations and decided to give the Green Beret training a go. She passed every stage of the rigorous training. However, the day before graduation, she was told she would not be made a member of the team. After this ruling, the army eventually sent her a graduation certificate, but Wilder never returned to the Special Forces, and instead became a member of the reserves.
Time to Train
The first part of this intensive training is a 24-day screening program, which attempts to weed out those who don’t necessarily have what it takes. Following this initial screening, a year-long Special Forces Qualification Course, (colloquially known as a Q Course), commences. The final exercise, known as Robin Sage training, consists of live-action roleplaying. This exercise tests a soldier’s ability to engage with a hostile force. After successfully completing this final exercise, the soldier is then assigned to a Special Forces operational detachment. The soldier who recently passed this training will soon be the first female assigned to one of these troops. Women continue to inspire!
At the graduation ceremony, the Special Operations Command Lt. Gen. Fran Beaudette shared some inspiring words that could be no more fitting: “from here, you will go forward and join the storied formation of the Green Berets, where you will do what you are trained to do: challenge assumptions, break down barriers, smash through stereotypes, innovate and achieve the impossible.”
This is, without a doubt, a significant moment for women in the military and one Green Beret is living proof. She embodies the tenents of Special Forces Training in ever sense, and knocking down gender boundaries along her way!
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