The U.S. Air Force allegedly went out of its way to lower the standards of physical fitness tests and other exams in order to ensure that a female candidate could ultimately qualify for the elite Special Tactics team, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
The allegations stem from an anonymous memo that was received by the Beacon, claiming that a female candidate who repeatedly failed and quit multiple times when she initially couldn’t pass the training program was allowed to try again until the qualifications were lowered in her favor.
Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, head of the Air Force Special Operations Command, has since responded by claiming that “norms” have indeed changed.
“How we bring trainees through the 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 these standards by the time they join the operational force has evolved,” Slife said. “It will continue to do so.”
The memo claims that the woman first received “preferential treatment” during the Special Tactics Officer selection process after she quit a swimming test. Despite this, she was “invited to return” to attempt the training again, which itself was a violation of “societal norms” in the Air Force.
The memo continues by describing how the woman “self-eliminated” on multiple occasions after she continued to fail various physical fitness exams; nevertheless, she was directly approached by Air Force leadership and encouraged to “stay in the training pipeline despite her effort to self-eliminate/quit.” Those in leadership allegedly predicted that she would ultimately pass the exams “regardless of if she meets standards or not.”
The incident is just the latest in a series of examples of women being arbitrarily favored for advancement in the military, ever since the 2015 decision by Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, to make all combat roles available for women. But veterans, Republican lawmakers, and others have pointed out that the vastly different standards for men and women are necessary due to their extreme physical and biological differences, thus meaning that some roles could only be fulfilled by men.
“The military community is not against women serving in the Air Force Special Warfare unit,” said an anonymous service member regarding the incident described in the memo. “However, we want the first female to have earned the beret and NOT have been given it.”
Slife, however, defended the conduct alleged in the memo by pointing out that “there is a difference between standards and norms. 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.”
He also accused the authors of the memo of “bullying and harassment” against the female candidate, claiming that it was “singling out a fellow service member for public abuse.”