First female soldier graduates from elite Special Forces ‘Q Course’ to become Green Beret

First female soldier graduates from elite Special Forces ‘Q Course’ to become Green Beret
The Special Forces Qualification Course graduation ceremony marks the first time a graduate is authorized to wear their green beret, the distinctive headgear worn by the U.S. Army Special Forces regiment ever since it was authorized by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. (File photo via army.mil)

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The once all-male Green Beret teams will be joined soon by a female soldier who graduated from the Army’s elite Special Forces course.

An unidentified woman donned the Green Beret after graduating Thursday at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She is one of three female soldiers who have been going through the Army Special Forces qualification course that lasts anywhere from 56 to 95 weeks.

The path to becoming a Green Beret consists of several phases, beginning with a grueling assessment and selection phase where commanders believe they can identify soldiers who cannot make the grade or do not belong. The bulk of those who try out fail. Some who get injured or fail are allowed to return and try again.

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“The graduation of the first female U.S. Army Green Beret is an important and hard-earned milestone. This achievement is a testament to this soldier’s individual strength, courage and commitment, and also an important institutional milestone for U.S. Special Operations Command as it embraces the cultural change that will continue to make it the most successful and elite Special Operations Force in the world,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York congresswoman who serves on the House subcommittee overseeing special operations forces.

In the 1980s, Capt. Kathleen Wilder completed the Q Course, but she was denied graduation after she was told that she had failed a field exercise, according to the Army Times. It was later determined that she was wrongly denied graduation after filing a sex discrimination complaint.

The Army does not release the identities of its commandos or disclose to which special forces group they will be assigned.

The more than 6,700 Army Green Berets are highly trained commandos who usually work in 12-person teams. They are often used for specialized combat and counterterrorism operations and to train other nations’ forces in battle skills. Many work with Afghan forces fighting the Taliban or are training troops in up to 60 countries.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.