The first woman to enter training to become a tactical air control party airman left shortly thereafter due to an injury, the Air Force said.
The active-duty enlisted airman, who was not identified by the Air Force, in July became the first female airman to start the TACP Preparatory Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, since the military opened up all remaining male-only combat jobs to women.
But in an email response Tuesday to an Air Force Times inquiry, Air Education and Training Command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday said the airman was injured during training July 19. The next day, the airman tried to resume training, but was unable to continue due to her injury, Holliday said. The email did not say how she was injured.
"After taking some time to consider her options, including washing back to complete her recovery and returning to training at a later date, she decided to go back to her original career field and not pursue retraining as a TACP," Holliday said.
There are now no women in the pipeline to enter battlefield airman jobs that were previously off-limits to women, Holliday said. Besides 1C4XX TACPs, the other Air Force jobs that were previously male-only are 13C special tactics officers, 13D combat rescue officers, 1C2XX combat controllers, 1T2XX pararescuemen, and 1W0X2 special operations weather enlisted airmen.
AETC in May said that another female airman — an active-duty officer — who hoped to become a combat rescue officer had passed the prerequisite Physical Aptitude and Stamina Test, or PAST, to begin battlefield airman training. In July, AETC said that officer was still preparing for her training and her start date had not yet been set.
Tactical air control party members control an A-10 Warthog on April 12, 2016, at the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range in Gila Bend, Ariz.
Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy/Air National Guard
However, in Tuesday's email, Holliday said the aspiring CRO did not attempt the initial physical test. That airman applied to the first phase of the process to become a CRO — the so-called paper board — and was invited to the second phase of the process, or a physical and mental screening, a psychological assessment, and then selection. However, that officer chose not to attend. AETC did not immediately respond to an email requesting a clarification on why the Air Force previously said that officer had passed the physical test.
Holliday also said that, so far, there have been nine other women — new recruits to the Air Force — who have taken the PAST test to begin battlefield airman training, but failed. Four of those women have since dropped out of the running to become battlefield airmen, but five are still working to try to pass it.
"Physical standards for battlefield airmen are both challenging and relevant, and it's not surprising that only a very small percentage, whether men or women, will meet the standard required," Holliday said. "The Air Force has not changed, raised or lowered standards as part of opening up our battlefield airman career fields to women. The mental and physical standards are the exact same standards as before. Any airman or recruit aspiring to enter battlefield airman career fields, regardless of gender, will be accessed and qualified using the current validated standards."
There is another female officer who is retraining to become an air liaison officer, and who is the first woman to be trained as part of the new Battlefield Airman Training Group, Holliday said. But air liaison officers were not previously off-limits to women, and this officer is not the first female airman to train to become one.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.