Did Air Force Special Operations Command Compromise Standards to Allow a Female to Reach Special Tactical Status?

Faye Higbee

An STO in the Air Force is a Special Tactics Officer. They must undergo rigorous training to earn the designation for working with ground combat teams to call in air strikes, tend to the wounded, and combat rescue operations. But in an anonymous email a combat controller accused the Air Force Special Operations Command of giving special accommodations to a female who recently passed the program to become the first trainee for Special Tactics Officer.

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A combat controller has written an absolutely BRUTAL account of the first female special tactics officer trainee and the many times she quit and was pushed forward anyway.

BKactual USAF special operations veteran Brian Kimber
Excerpt from the anonymous email

Rep Dan Crenshaw, a Navy SEAL veteran immediately called for Air Force Special Operations Command to stop if the email was true.

We cannot sacrifice training standards. Ever. Full stop. If this account is true, our military needs to address it now.

Rep Dan Crenshaw

The Air Force Special Operations Command immediately pushed back on the accusation. LtGen Jim Slife gave a message on his Command’s Facebook page:

The anonymous email’s author is concerned about training standards. We can unequivocally say the standards—which are tied to mission accomplishment—have not changed. However, there is a difference between standards and norms. How we bring trainees through the training pipeline today is different than the way we brought them through the pipeline 15 years ago because our understanding of the best way to get trainees to meet standards and be ready to join the operational force has evolved. It will continue to do so. Norms may adapt over time, but the standards are always tied to our mission. As the mission changes, the needed standards may change as well, but that hasn’t happened in this case.

LtGen Jim Slife

According to the Air Force Special Operations Command Standards that talk about STO Phase 2, if a recruit fails the first time, there is a waiting period of a year before going through again. If, as the email claims, she was a “nonselect” she would have had to redo her application with updated information.

First-Time Non-Selects: Candidates who attend Phase II but are not selected are not guaranteed a Phase II
invitation in future selection cycles. If the cadre identify deficiencies/weaknesses that they would like to see
corrected before accepting you into the ST or CRO community, you must submit an updated application that
addresses those deficiencies”.
Air Force

As LtGen Slife stated, there is a difference between “norms”and “standards.” Norms change with the blowing of the wind. Standards should remain in the physical and mental fitness category for members of any special operations force. Using an anonymous email to complain was not particularly helpful to address the accusation.


Featured screenshot: A U.S. Air Force special tactics officer controls aircraft during Operation Resolute Support at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2019. Operation Resolute Support is a NATO-led train, advise, and assist mission seeking reconciliation and peace for Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Pfiester)

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