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5th Air Force Woman to Attempt Special Operations Training

Airmen salute the American flag as it is lowered during the women’s retreat ceremony at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., April 7, 2016. (U.S. Air Force/Airman Donald C. Knechtel/Released)
Airmen salute the American flag as it is lowered during the women’s retreat ceremony at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., April 7, 2016. (U.S. Air Force/Airman Donald C. Knechtel/Released)

A fifth woman in the U.S. Air Force plans to attempt special operations training, an official said.

The female service member, who wasn't identified, is in Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas and wants to become a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) specialist, according to Marilyn Holliday, a spokeswoman for the Air Education and Training Command.

If she becomes a TACP candidate, she will be the second in the pipeline. Another woman entered TACP training Aug. 6, Holliday said.

Three other women have tried to become special operators: One TACP retrainee ended up removing herself from training due to a leg injury last year; a combat rescue officer candidate passed the physical test but never completed the selection program application; and another non-prior service TACP candidate couldn't meet entry standards following BMT, according to Holliday.

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Since the Defense Department opened combat career fields to women in 2015, few female airmen have qualified and entered TACP training, a critical job in which airmen are assigned to infantry units to coordinate Air Force fixed-wing aircraft in close-air support against enemy targets, among other roles.

Then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter reversed longstanding U.S. military traditions Dec. 3, 2015, when he announced that all military occupational specialties would open to women. In the following months, the military services moved to amend their battlefield programs, but not diminish physical training standards.

Holliday said training for would-be special operators in the service begins at Lackland.

"Being brand new to the Air Force and enlisted, training begins at basic military training, which is under the 737th Training Group at JBSA-Lackland," she said.

Then candidates enter the Battlefield Airman "Prep Course, followed by the indoctrination course, which are both under the Battlefield Airman Training Group, also at JBSA-Lackland," she said. "Both of these groups are part of the 37th Training Wing" at Lackland.

From there, airmen are sent to their respective Air Force Specialty Codes in various commands.

The jobs include special tactics officer (13CX), combat rescue officer (13DX), combat controller (1C2XX), pararescue (1T2XX), special operations weather (1WOX2), tactical air control party (1C4XX) and air liaison officer (13LX).

Singing the praises of the Air Force program, Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, commander of AETC, told reporters in March, "We're forging the airmen of the future every single day.

"Last year, we stood up the Air Force's new battlefield airman training program, and ... it marked the first year we fully opened all seven battlefield airman career fields to female airmen," he said during the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

"It takes a lot of work," Roberson said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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