ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The U.S. Naval Academy is preparing to open its screening process for Navy SEAL training next year to women who are juniors at the academy, the superintendent said Monday.
Vice Adm. Walter "Ted" Carter told the academy's Board of Visitors at their quarterly meeting that the school is waiting for specific guidance from the Navy before definitely opening next spring's screening. He noted it could take longer before female midshipmen will take part in the rigorous 24-hour marathon screening process.
"We'll be ready to put women through the screener as early as next year," Carter said. "I don't know that we could move any faster, but it could be longer depending on what the details of the policy decisions are."
The superintendent's comments come less than a week after Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the military will open all combat jobs to women.
The academy, which has Navy SEALs on its staff, conducts the screening on its grounds in the spring and fall. It tests physical, mental and teamwork abilities. The screening is a gateway to additional opportunities each summer at Basic Underwater Demolition training, which is conducted in the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Base Coronado-Naval Amphibious Base in California.
If the screening in Annapolis, Maryland, is opened to women next year, female midshipmen in the Class of 2017 could be the first to graduate from the academy to go on to become members of the elite naval commando force.
Last year, the academy had about 100 male students who were initially interested. The top performers in the screening are selected for further training in California the following summer. The school had 38 SEAL spots this year.
The superintendent said the academy expects to have female students interested in participating, based on comments students have submitted to an anonymous online academy bulletin board.
"We know that there's a warrior mentality within the men and women here, so I fully anticipate we'll have some that are interested," he said.
Col. Stephen Liszewski, the commandant of midshipmen, said the academy should have a better feel for interest next semester, when the school conducts a poll among students.
"In every warfare community or specialty here at the academy that's been opened, there has always been interest from female members of the brigade," Liszewski said, noting that female students wanted to serve aboard submarines when the Navy opened them to women in 2010.
The superintendent said he is confident the academy has female students who can succeed at becoming SEALs.
"Based on the talent that I see here, the physical attributes, the performance in our physical training scores, the performance on the field of sport, I'm very confident for the women that truly want to do this we'll have some that can do it," he said.
Liszewski noted that a female student last fall scored at the top in an explosive ordnance disposal screener, which has some similarities to the screener for SEAL training.