(CNSNews.com) - A major-general with the U.S. Special Operations Command admits that he and his men have concerns about putting women in the small units that operate clandestinely in remote, hostile areas, but at the same time, he says the changes must be given a chance to work.
"You know, there's just -- there's a new dynamic. I mean, the days of Rambo are over," said Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, the director of force management and development for the U.S. Special Operations Command.
Sacolick told a news conference at the Pentagon Tuesday he's more concerned about behavioral, cultural and social factors than he is about women meeting SOCOM's physical and training standards.
"I'm not comfortable with the term 'gender-neutral standards.' We have standards. And they equate to an operational requirement on a battlefield… The one thing it goes to -- we don't deploy in large formations. I mean, we send a 12-man team or even smaller into very austere, remote environments by themselves. In many respects, they may be the only Americans serving in a particular country. And so I think we have to -- you know, that complicates, you know, integration, and that's our concern."
Sacolick specifically mentioned privacy issues as well as the "health and welfare" of female operators in an "austere environment." He also expressed concern about the men's reaction to women in their formations.
"Is it conceivable that you could have a team with 11 men and one woman?" a reporter asked.
"I believe so," Sacolick said. "We're looking for smart, qualified operators. You know, there's just -- there's a new dynamic. I mean, the days of Rambo are over. I mean, we're looking for young men that can speak and learn a foreign language and understand culture, that can work with indigenous populations and culturally attune manners." He said "intellect" is the "defining characteristic" of those in Special Ops.
Sacolick admitted there are concerns among the rank-and-file about admitting women: "There's concerns," he said. "And we all share those concerns. I would -- I think the survey that we're going to produce will be telling."
Each military branch and SOCOM are conducting reviews and surveys to make sure their operational standards, including physical standards, are current and appropriate to the task and that they are applied on a "gender-neutral" basis.
Sacolick said the Special Ops formations "are filled with the quiet professionals" who need to be heard: "They need to find out how they feel about integration at the team level. I think that's going to be really important.
"I mean, ultimately, these young men have volunteered multiple times. And we have a lot invested in them. And they've got to embrace it. I might add that sometimes we underestimate the capacity of our younger troops to embrace change, to embrace diversity, and I just want to provide them an opportunity to voice their concerns in this survey."
Sacolick was one of several military officials who briefed reporters on their plans to integrate women into units and jobs that previously were closed to them.
"We've got to let the process work," Sacolick said. "And, I mean, we owe it to America. We owe it to the young men and women who are listening to this press conference. I have got to be the honest broker in this process, and we've got to let it work. So I don't want to predispose anybody or this process to my personal opinions on the subject. I just want to see what happens."
The military branches and SOCOM submitted their female-integration plans to the Defense Secretary in mid-May, explaining how they intend to go "gender-neutral." All surveys, reviews and studies must be completed by September 2015, and "full implementation" is set for Jan. 1, 2016.