News and Commentary

Female Who Quit Air Force Commando Training Says There Was ‘Highly Suspicious’ Change Of Standards Benefitting Her
Navy Seals
Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

A new report states that a female captain who was allowed to return to training after she quit and still might become the Air Force’s first woman to complete elite special tactics training admitted that at the very time she arrived at Combat Control School in North Carolina in January 2020, the hardest part of the year-long program, the physical standards had been lowered.

The woman complained in an April 2021 memo.

“I believe the change in standards invalidated me with a majority of my team,” she said. “One [instructor] cadre member had a conversation with a student and said that the cadre ‘rioted’ when they found out the PT test was changing back to lesser standards. … Perhaps all of this timing was coincidental, but looks highly suspicious with my arrival on campus,” Air Force Times reported.

In early January, Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), countered claims that the Air Force had utilized special treatment for a female airman after an anonymous letter alleged that AFSOC had altered training benchmarks for the woman’s benefit. The letter also charged that the woman had been permitted to return to training after quitting three times, twice in water confidence sessions and once during land navigation.

Slife stated on Facebook on January 6:

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.

The author chose to make the point about standards by highlighting one individual trainee. Singling out a fellow servicemember for public abuse is bullying and harassment, which are unacceptable deviations from both our standards, our norms and values as Airmen. Furthermore, most of what the author asserted about this trainee’s experience is either factually incorrect or missing important context which would completely change the perception.

In a Jan. 7 letter to airmen, Slife added, “We do make changes in how we train airmen in order to improve the effectiveness of our training, but we do not lower our standards. … Period.”

Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) a former Navy Seal, tweeted, “We cannot sacrifice training standards. Ever. Full stop. If this account is true, our military needs to address it now. @SecDef.”

“The female captain is one of only a few women who have attempted to earn a commando’s beret since the Air Force opened the prestigious career fields to female airmen in 2016. None have succeeded,” Air Force Times noted.

As opposed to four airmen who quit during Combat Control School in 2019, none of whom were recommended for reinstatement, “the female candidate’s form recommended that she be considered to reenter the course after taking herself out of the land navigation event,” Air Force Times pointed out, adding:

While the other airmen’s forms suggested they transfer elsewhere, citing Air Force policy, the woman’s paperwork advised supervisors to readmit her and ‘proceed [in accordance with Special Warfare Training Wing and 24th Special Operations Wing] determination.’

One instructor, a member of the team that was vetting students and who spoke on condition of anonymity, previously confirmed to Air Force Times that the female candidate also tried to quit in the pool during special tactics officer selection in 2018.

The female airman is expected to return to Fort Bragg in North Carolina to try again to pass the program in April.

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