Inspector General investigates the Air Force’s decision to ease female combat applicants’ requirements.
An inquiry by the Air Force inspector general revealed that leadership did not bend the rules for a female trainee who withdrew from consideration for an elite combat position. According to an anonymous letter, service authorities ignore the trainee’s poor performance. The investigation revealed that Air Force special warfare criteria were not reduced for women’s advantage. After quitting late, the trainee was restarted, which did not constitute foul play. The IG discovered that AFSOC community members were unclear about which fitness standards were in force at different points over the previous few years.
During a water-confidence training exercise at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, a female applicant for special warfare officer resigned. The Air Force maintains that her actions did not constitute “self-initiated elimination” or a choice to abandon special warfare. To be booted out of Phase II, a participant must resign three times in distinct situations. In February 2020, the applicant advanced to a diving preparation course but was not permitted to complete it due to medical issues. Most instructors voted for the women to advance when she returned to Phase II in October 2019 for a second attempt.
A review determined that the scenario was exceptional but not unprecedented. Investigators determined that the Air Force used the same process for removing female officers from training as it would for other male officers. Despite her lack of commando training, the lady was recruited to serve in a special internal operation think tank. AFSOC Slife informed investigators of candidate X, who departed her special operations training in February, that her cyber background was enticing.
After the anonymous claims went viral online, the Air Force said it would formalize the processes a former trainee must follow to return to training. AFSOC has modified the PT exam twice since 2016 to evaluate better “anaerobic capacity, power, agility, and muscular strength.” However, the IG contended that it was part of a more extensive evaluation of fitness testing. The training wing accepted somewhat lower criteria for airmen and women in special warfare. It would function as a stopgap until more ambitious objectives were tried in 2021.
Congress does not compel the Air Force to provide weekly or monthly information on female special warfare candidates. According to a source, squadrons have been inundated with requests for information on recruits. One witness informed the inspector general, “It wasn’t just about women.” Everyone felt they had something to say, something to share, a criticism, or a query.