First female US Navy sailor completes brutal special warfare training program

An active-duty Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman [name withheld at request of the Navy] holds his SWCC badge while training sailors at Naval Station Great Lakes on April 8, 2013 in Great Lakes, Illinois. Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen,

A female sailor has completed the grueling Naval Special Warfare training program for the first time in its history.

After completing the 37-week course, she is now a qualified combatant-craft crewman – which operates the boats that transport Navy SEALs to their classified missions at sea.

The Navy declined to identify the woman for the Associated Press, noting that it’s routine military policy for special operations forces.

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She is the first of 18 women who have tried to complete the Special Warfare Combatant Craft or SEAL training, according to the Associated Press.

Three of those women are still "currently in the training pipeline."

Overall, according to the Navy, only about 35 percent of the men and women who begin the training for SWCC actually graduate.

She’s one of 17 graduates of the newest class.

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The sailor's graduation marks just the latest inroad that women have made into some of the military's most difficult and competitive commando jobs — just five years after all combat posts were opened to them. She will now head to one of Naval Special Warfare’s three special boat teams.

While Navy SEALs often grab the headlines for high-risk missions, the crew that operate the boats and weapons systems during raids and classified operations also go through an extensive selection and training process.

The training to become a combatant craft crewman comes after the Navy's initial recruit boot camp, and includes a two-month preparatory course, a three-week orientation at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif., and seven weeks where they learn basic navigation and water skill, as well as physical conditioning and safety. At the end of those seven weeks is a 72-hour crucible called "The Tour." That event — which tests their grit and physical toughness — is the most frequent point of failure for the candidates.

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Those who pass move on to seven weeks of basic crewman training to learn combat, weapons and communications training, followed by a seven-week intermediate-level seamanship course, and finally survival, evasion, resistance and escape training and a cultural course.

According to Naval Special Warfare, about 300 sailors attempt the SWCC course every year and about 70 complete it. There are between 760 and 800 in the force at any one time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report