In yesterday’s Times:
Britain’s special forces are considering modifying their notoriously tough selection tests to ensure women have a “fair” chance of joining the elite units.
It is understood the possible changes will be made to the initial phase of the SAS and SBS (Special Boat Service) selection, which is when recruits are expected to march over hilly terrain carrying increasingly heavy loads. On some of the longer marches, The Sunday Times has learnt, female soldiers may be allowed to carry less weight and will be given extra time to complete the tests. [J4MB emphasis. So on a real military exercise, the male soldiers would have to carry the weight the female soldiers wouldn’t be carrying, and would also have to wait for the women to arrive at the destination, or walk more slowly so the women could keep up with them.]
The changes are being considered because the first female soldiers could apply for special forces selection in just over a year, defence sources say. Soldiers from any unit in the armed forces can apply to join the special forces, although they traditionally recruit heavily from the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines.
Members of the SAS have been told that the selection standards for the regiment, which prides itself on running one of the most demanding military recruitment courses in the world, will not be lowered. But the proposal is believed to have caused dismay among some of the warrant officers and sergeants, who see themselves as the custodians of the regiment’s reputation for excellence.
While the modifications to special forces selection are still only being considered, the mere discussion of the subject has led to heated debate among officers and warrant officers, it is claimed.
The move follows an announcement in July 2016 by David Cameron, then the prime minister, that women would be allowed to serve in close combat units. By the end of next year, all armed forces roles will be open to women.
Research conducted by the Ministry of Defence before the decision found that women were twice as likely to suffer musculoskeletal injuries during initial military training. [J4MB emphasis] An analysis of recent army recruits found only 4.5% of women would meet the physical standards required for joining the infantry or Royal Armoured Corps, which have lower physical standards than the special forces.
Sources say special forces commanders are considering changing only the first of several phases of selection, which involves marches in the Brecon Beacons in south Wales over a four-week period. “There is a determination to get women into the special forces,” the source said.
“There will be changes to the selection of women but it is not about lowering standards — it’s about levelling the playing field. For a woman to pass special forces selection, she will have to be very focused and very fit — exactly the same as her male colleagues.” [J4MB emphasis: How is this ‘exactly the same’? And if the lowered standards are acceptable for women, why not for men too?]
Few countries have female soldiers in their elite special forces. The first woman to enlist to become a US Navy Seal dropped out of training earlier this year.
In 2014, however, Norway formed the world’s first all-female special forces unit. The Jegertroppen — or “Hunter Troops” — are trained to parachute from military aircraft and ski in the Arctic.
The MoD said it did not comment on the special forces.
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