Two Female Airmen Reclassify After Attempting to Complete Special Ops Training

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TACP airmen complete a Field Training Exercise (FTX) at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas.
FILE PHOTO -- TACP airmen complete a Field Training Exercise (FTX) at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas Jul. 11, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Andrew C. Patterson)

Two women who had been attempting to enter the U.S. Air Force's combat controller and pararescue career fields since last fall were recently reclassified into other jobs after not meeting the rigorous battlefield airman standards.

Military.com reported in March that the two women, not identified for privacy reasons, had completed the Special Warfare Preparatory Course and were eligible for the next Assessment and Selection (A&S) course. But they were not selected to continue, according to 1st Lt. Jeremy Huggins, a spokesman for Air Education and Training Command's Special Warfare Training Wing.

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It's not the first time women have advanced to the A&S level and were subsequently withdrawn.

One Pararescue (PJ) candidate and a Special Operations Weather Technician (SOWT) candidate -- the field has since been reclassified as Special Reconnaissance (SR) -- entered the A&S course last year, but neither successfully completed the program.

However, there are two new women assigned to the Special Warfare Training Wing within the training pipeline, Huggins said Tuesday.

"One is an enlisted Tactical Air Control Party trainee currently in the Tactical Air Control Party Apprentice Course," he said in an email. "The other is an enlisted trainee in the Special Warfare Preparatory Course who has not yet been vectored to a specific career field."

The career field selection "will happen upon completion of the preparatory course," Huggins added.

The Special Warfare Prep Course runs eight weeks, following Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

Huggins said the current training has not slowed or been pushed back even in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic because the existing candidates had been living and training at Lackland for weeks since BMT with no need to train at other locations.

On the officer side, the single female Special Tactics Officer (STO) candidate who has advanced the farthest in that specialty is still on track in her training, said 1st Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo, spokeswoman for Air Force Special Tactics at the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

"Out of privacy and respect for the current candidate, we won't release details on the specific stage of the training pipeline she's in," Fontalvo said Monday.

Due to the pandemic, the next class of airmen slated for STO assessment and selection -- which also includes Combat Rescue Officers, or CROs -- will not enter that phase until the end of July, the spokeswoman said. There are no female candidates in that STO/CRO class, Fontalvo added.

The single female STO candidate completed the "STO Phase 2 Assessment" conducted by Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), as well as the Special Tactics/Guardian Angel Assessment and Selection Course, officials said in March.

"As such, she has proceeded farther in the pipeline than any female pursuing Pararescue, Combat Control, Special Reconnaissance, Special Tactics Officer or Combat Rescue Officer specialties," Huggins said at the time. The candidate was awaiting the Pre-Dive Course.

Since the Defense Department opened combat career fields to women in December 2015, few female airmen have qualified for Air Force special warfare training.

Some have self-eliminated or sustained injuries; others have not met the standards of a particular program.

Battlefield airmen career fields include special tactics officer, combat rescue officer, combat controller, pararescue, special reconnaissance, Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) specialist and Tactical Air Control Party Officer (TACP-O), formerly known as air liaison officers (ALOs).

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the new name for Tactical Air Control Party Officers.

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

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