The Navy never had to look too hard to fill its elite SEAL force. For years, eager recruits poured in to try out for naval special warfare teams — but they were overwhelmingly white. Now, Naval Special Warfare Command leaders are trying to turn that around, developing programs to seek out recruits from more diverse regions of the country.
“We have been passive in the way that we recruit, We”re SEAL Team. Come find us,” said Rear Adm. H. Wyman Howard III, top commander for Naval Special Warfare, in an interview with The Associated Press. Now, he said, “we have to go where diversity lives.”
Army leaders have been doing some of the same things. Lt. Gen. Fran Beaudette, head of Army Special Operations Command, said they have loosened some restrictions on who can try out for special forces units — which included requirements on the amount of time in the service or in rank a soldier had done.
And the Army has created new, specialised teams to better reach out to more diverse populations. The effort comes as the military — and the nation — struggles with racism, extremism and hate crimes. Leaders see greater diversity as a way to combat extremism in the ranks, even as they increase other training and education programs.
Commando forces — particularly the officers — tend to be far less diverse than the military as a whole. While only a small percentage of those who try out eventually pass the grueling, years-long training for special operations, leaders hope that bringing in a wider array of recruits will lead to a more diverse force.
As of March 2021, a full 95 per cent of all SEAL and combatant-craft crew (SWCC) officers were white and just 2 per cent were Black, according to Naval Special Warfare statistics provided to the AP. The officers corps of Army Special Forces is 87per cent white, and also 2per cent Black.