A sixth woman has begun the Air Force's battlefield airman training program in hopes to become the service's first female Tactical Air Control Party airman, according to Air Education and Training Command.
The airman, whose identity has not been made public for privacy concerns, began her first block of TACP apprentice training on March 12 after suffering a previous medical setback in January, according to Marilyn Holliday, spokeswoman for AETC.
Two female airmen who previously entered the program in August are no longer in the pipeline, added 1st Lt. Geneva E. Croxton, also a spokeswoman.
"To date, there have been five women who have attempted, and a sixth is currently in the pipeline," Croxton said in an email to Military.com on Wednesday.
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The two female airmen who began battlefield training in August also attempted to become TACP specialists, according to officials. The three before them did not follow through in the program: one TACP trainee ended up removing herself from training due to a leg injury in 2016; 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 Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
Since the Defense Department opened combat career fields to women in December 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 responsibilities.
"Once in the training pipelines, it can take almost two years for an airman to graduate training and join an operational Air Force unit," Holliday told Military.com. "This takes into account the natural timeline to recruit, select and train."
Then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter reversed longstanding U.S. military policy Dec. 3, 2015, when he announced that all military occupational specialties would open to women. In the following months, the military services moved to change ground combat and special operations training pipelines to accommodate women without decreasing physical standards.
In the Air Force, seven new career fields opened: 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).
The Air Force opened air liaison officer career field to women before opening the remaining career fields.
Women continue to graduate as ALOs from battlefield training, Holliday said.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.