The U.S. military is about to experience another first:
Barring injury in the next few weeks, an enlisted soldier is about to become the first female Green Beret in Army history.
That comes seven years after the Pentagon lifted its longtime ban on women serving in combat roles.
As with all special operators, the military does not release names or identification. But the woman is expected to graduate soon from the rugged, roughly year-long qualification course and become a Special Forces engineer sergeant. Another woman is also making her way through the demanding yearlong course.
The length of the course depends on the operator’s specialty from engineer to medical, communications, weapons and operations. All are considered combat roles.
But even before that endurance training, there comes another nearly month-long qualification course to enter the yearlong course.
The preliminary test involves complicated land navigation exercises, day and night, all lugging the standard assortment of military gear and weapons weighing well over 100 pounds. Most candidates wash out at that point.
The Green Berets became a legendary group especially during the Vietnam War.
Entry of women into Special Forces units created considerable controversy, now largely muted, at least publicly. These have been close-knit units of alpha males whose individual survival depends entirely on teammates.
These guys are not spindly bookkeepers. Their workout sessions look more like pro football weight-lifting classes. Each operator must be capable of carrying another over rugged terrain under fire and doubts persisted that even an extremely capable and fit female would be able to save a wounded colleague.
The entrance into such active duty roles of a qualified woman will be the ultimate test of unit acceptance. Of the approximate 65,000 women now in the Army, about 700 have been accepted into once-restricted combat roles.