Air Force Reserve Command said a contractor made a mistake this week when he told a potential recruit that he could not enlist because he is transgender.
Buzzfeed first reported on Thursday that the aspiring reservist, identified only as Parker A., was told when he called the Reserve’s toll-free application number that transgender people were not allowed to enlist.
In fact, the military began accepting transgender recruits on Jan. 1 after the courts declined the Trump administration’s request to delay that deadline and the White House dropped its fight.
“I was pretty appalled,” Parker A. told Buzzfeed. “When I contacted the Air Force Reserves, I was hopeful that all the roadblocks would be leveled and I could be processed. However, to my dismay, they were not.”
In an interview with Air Force Times, Air Force Reserve Command spokesman Col. Bruce Bender said that the contractor who answered Parker A.’s call Wednesday did not have the latest guidance allowing transgender recruits, and gave him out-of-date information.
When AFRC realized a mistake had been made, Bender said, the command called Parker A. back to correct it. Bender said Parker A. was given the direct number of a recruiter, to bypass the 800 number.
“He spoke to the major here in our recruiting office, and we provided a lot of information and background on the Air Force Reserve and the application process,” Bender said.
Parker A. told Buzzfeed that the major was “extremely apologetic” and “made it feel like I was wanted by the Air Force.”
Bender said Parker A. had unsuccessfully applied before to become an Air Force reservist, so they had his contact information on file.
Bender said the updated information on transgender recruiting was sent out to recruiting personnel before the holidays, but suspects that business around the holidays meant the contractor in question didn’t get it.
“Recruiting is a big machine, so to speak, and we’ve got people all across the country who are sitting in offices in towns across the country, and we have contractors who answer the phone calls,” Bender said. “So there’s a lot of people involved in the process, which just adds to the challenge of disseminating information quickly.”
Bender said that the latest information on transgender recruitment was re-sent to all personnel after the mistake was made.
These contractors typically collect information from people who are interested in joining the Air Force Reserve and then pass that information on to uniformed recruiters, who follow up with them, Bender said.
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.