The U.S. Air Force is looking to open direct-combat related occupations to female airmen by spring, 2016.
The Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, recently announced that she intends to open seven Air Force occupation specialties to women. Sec. James said that the Air Force is in the process of developing gender-neutral standards for the positions. Once these policies can be established, the spots will be open to anyone who is qualified to fill them.
There are only seven Air Force jobs that are currently closed to female airmen. These occupations include: combat control team, combat rescue officer, pararescue, special operation weather (officer and enlisted), special tactics officer, and tactical air control party (TACP). TACPs make up a critical combat occupation specialty, where airmen are assigned to infantry units to coordinate in-close air support from USAF aircraft against enemy targets.
Secretary James’ plan will bring the Air Force in line with the other service branches as to what they are doing to open combat jobs to women.
Back in January, 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered all service branches to open all combat jobs to female service members by 2016, or explain why any must remain closed. The Pentagon lifted its ban on women serving in such roles in 2012, but gave the services time to integrate female troops into the male-only, front-line positions.
Currently, women make up about 15% of the U.S. military’s 1.3 million active-duty service members.
In similar efforts, the Navy began allowing female officers to serve on submarines as early as 2010, but has yet to formulate a plan to integrate women into its Basic Underwater Demolition school programs, which includes the Navy SEALs.
The Marine Corps began allowing women to take the Infantry Officer Course, however, no female officers have yet to pass the demanding 13-week program.
In September, the Army announced that it is considering admitting females into their elite Ranger School.
One of the big hang-ups for women moving into the most elite combat roles is that the military will not lower any standards for women. Women are expected to perform at the same standards as men in order to qualify. The Marine Infantry Officer Course is the best example of this. Nearly everyone in uniform agrees that standards need to remain strict. But most people agree, if any service member can qualify for a position, they deserve to work in billets for that occupation.
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Military Connection: USAF to Open All Jobs to Women: By Debbie Gregory