Update on Female Airman in USAF Special Ops Pipeline

Faye Higbee
female airman

A few days ago, we reported on the case of a female Airman (a Captain) that was reportedly treated differently than her male counterparts for Special Tactical Officer training. An investigation has been launched. The woman herself wrote a letter suggesting “shifting” standards might be a concern as far back as April of 2021. LtGen Slife had pushed back strongly against the anonymous letter from a combat controller suggesting that the standards were changed just for her.

The problem with any changes in standards or whatever the military wants to call them, immediately invalidates a candidate – women have not earned the STO beret since the job was opened to women in 2016. But the standards were lowered prior to the female airman’s arrival and no one was told.

Teammates knew the standard was at one point 300 pounds for the deadlift. During the test, we were not told any standards, and I lifted 250 pounds. Since I passed, they believed the standards had been bent for me…

Had I chosen to continue, I would be responsible for leading these men. Any bias that is created and supported by people in positions of authority (the cadre) would make it difficult for me to lead them.

Female Airman in her April memo

Such a situation caused rumors to spread through the SOF members, and according to the Air Force Times one trainer openly stated his disdain for her arrival at the training.

Multiple documents obtained by Air Force Times — including performance forms, score charts and a report the woman authored shortly after dropping out of a land navigation event — illustrate how she was allowed to return to training after she quit, and how physical training metrics were lowered just as she arrived at a challenging schoolhouse last spring…

In January 2020, the female captain passed the physical fitness test needed to graduate from the special warfare assessment and selection course, according to a score sheet obtained by Air Force Times. But when she left for Combat Control School in North Carolina — the most challenging part of a yearslong program that entails air traffic control, parachute and dive training — she learned the physical standards had been lowered.

Had she been held to the previous criteria, she would have failed, according to her score sheet and memo. The change was so recent that her scores were still marked as a failure on electronic records when she took the test in late March 2021, since the grading database wasn’t updated with the new rubric, according to the paperwork and a source familiar with it.

Air Force Times

The woman “self eliminated” during the land navigation course. In other words, she quit. Normally airmen are reassigned to another job or allowed to be discharged if they quit, and their SOF aspirations are over. None of four males who quit were recommended for reinstatement. The female airman is supposed to report to Fort Bragg for another chance to continue into the STO program. As we previously reported, those who fail the course can come back after one year if they are not selected to try again, but are not guaranteed a place in the training (Air Force).

The mere accusation of standards being lowered for this female airman will cast doubt over her ability to lead no matter whether she passes the final try or not.

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Featured screenshot US Air Force weather men participate in land navigation training at Moody Air Force Base

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