Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced on Monday, November 17, that she plans to open up seven jobs more combat jobs to women including pararescue and tactical air control party.
Many combat jobs have been open to women for years. For example there are 723 women pilots in the Air Force, flying everything from high performance F-16s to C-130 cargo planes that regularly go into harm’s way.
Only seven jobs in the Air Force were still closed to women including special tactics officer, pararescue, tactical air control party (TACP), combat rescue officer, combat control team, special operation weather officer/enlisted.
TACPs are air force personnel assigned to Army and Marine infantry units to coordinate Air Force fixed-wing aircraft in close-air support against enemy targets.
Air Force Secretary James said that the Air Force is working to establish gender-neutral standards for the positions and opening them to whoever is qualified. “Whatever the standard is,” she said, “it would be the same for men and women.”
“Whatever the standard is, it would be the same for men and women.”
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James
In January, 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta mandated that the armed forces open all combat jobs to women by 2016 or explain why any of these jobs must remain closed. The Pentagon lifted its ban on women serving in combat roles in 2012, but gave each branch of service time to integrate female troops into previously male-only combat positions.
The move brings the Air Force in line with the other services which are also developing plans to open direct-combat jobs to women by January 2016.
Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno are still considering a plan announced in September to allow female candidates to attend Ranger School, a grueling, two-month long realistic combat training course that pushes students to their mental and physical limits.
In 2012 the Marine Corps allowed women to take the Infantry Officer Course, but no woman has yet passed the physically grueling 13-week course.
In 2010 the Navy allowed female officers to serve on submarines and the Navy is currently in the process of integrating female enlisted personnel into the submarine force. However, the Navy has no plans at present to allow women to attend Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
The Air Force seems to be getting ahead of the curve on opening all jobs to women, but Air Force Secretary James also said that she wants to increase the Air Force’s retention rate for women, because currently women at mid-career leave the Air Force at twice the rate of their male counterparts.