The superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy says he's confident that women who graduate from the school will go on to become Navy SEALs if the military changes its policy to allow them to serve in that special operations role.
Male graduates who go into that service assignment are the most successful of any group of men that go into special operations across the country, and that shows the academy has a formula that works, Vice Adm. Walter "Ted" Carter said Monday during a break in a Naval Academy Board of Visitors meeting.
"So should that open up to women, I have no doubt that our women will do very well in that program as well, just as they have in all the other communities," Carter said.
Last week, the commander of the Navy's special warfare units recommended that the SEALs and combat crew jobs be open to women. Rear Adm. Brian Losey noted there are "no insurmountable obstacles" to opening the jobs to women, but he warned there are "foreseeable impacts" to integrating them into ground combat units.
The U.S. military services are expected to send their final recommendations on opening more positions to women to Defense Secretary Ash Carter soon.
The superintendent said he believes athletic success by Naval Academy women's teams, together with the school's academics, help prepare the future naval officers for difficult work.
"My women perform in athletics compared to the other Division One, high-end schools across the country that often have a 10-to-1 student body ratio compared to mine, and I still win at over 65 percent, so I view athletics as at least a leading indicator of what it takes to go into these high-performing, tough mission sets," Carter said. "But it's the time management as well as the tough academic curriculum that we have here that I think makes our midshipmen more resilient as they go into the officer programs to be ready to serve."
The superintendent said he has had no indication of how many women might want to become Navy SEALs. He noted that women at the academy did not know that they would be able to serve in submarines before the Navy allowed them to in 2010. That year, 11 academy women were accepted into the submarine program.
Women now make up about 27 percent of the academy's student body, the highest in the school's history. Female applications for next year are already 15 percent higher than they were at this time last year, Carter said.
Carter said he has 36 slots for Navy SEALs this year, and he usually has more than 100 men who want to go into the field. The school works with the special operations community to select each person for available positions.