The Air Force’s senior leaders are praising Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s decision to open all career fields to women, including the six Air Force combat jobs that had been male-only.
“This decision means that we will be able to maximize our military effectiveness because we'll be able to draw from a larger pool of skilled and qualified individuals,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a statement. “The bottom line is to ensure the force's future success based on validated, gender neutral standards.”
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, about 4,000 positions had been closed to women in the career fields of special tactics officer and combat rescue officer, as well as the enlisted fields of special operations weather, combat control, pararescue and tactical air control party.
“Our Air Force is more effective when success is based on ability, qualifications, and mission performance,” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said in a statement. “While not everyone aspires to be a Battlefield Airman, those who have the desire and are qualified will be afforded an opportunity to serve in those specialties in our Air Force. As with any new policy, implementation will take time and will be done in a deliberate and responsible manner.”
The head of Air Force Special Operations Command said earlier this year that women special operators would have to meet the same physical standards as men if they were allowed to become battlefield airmen.
“The standards will not be lowered to incorporate or integrate women into our formations at U.S. Special Operations Command or in AFSOC — repeat, will not be lowered,” Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold told Air Force Times in an interview.
Rep. Martha McSally, a former A-10 pilot and the first woman to fly a combat decision, vowed to continue to work with lawmakers to integrate women into combat jobs.
“Today’s historic announcement finally recognizes that our military is strongest when it prioritizes merit and capability, not gender — and it’s about damn time,” McSally said in a news release. “Women have been fighting and dying for our country since its earliest wars. They have shown they can compete with the best of the best, and succeed."
ARE YOU TOUGH ENOUGH?
If you are a female airman interested in becoming a battlefield airman, Air Force Times wants to hear from you. In announcing his decision, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, “only small numbers of women could” likely meet the standards set by elite infantry troops and Special Operations forces. Can you meet the standards?
Email reporter Jeff Schogol at email@example.com Your comments could be used in a story.