Air Force

3rd Woman to Attempt Air Force Battlefield Training

ORLANDO, Florida -- An enlisted woman in basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, plans to begin tactical air control party, or TACP, training in the next few months, the head of Air Education and Training Command said Friday.

"So when she graduates BMT, she'll start training right away for that," Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson told reporters during a media roundtable at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium here.

Since the Defense Department opened battle career fields to women last year, two female airmen have qualified and entered TACP training. But neither completed the program. One sustained an injury; the other determined the career field wasn't the path for her, the general said.

TACPs perform a critical job on the battlefield, with airmen assigned to infantry units to coordinate Air Force fixed-wing aircraft in close-air support against enemy targets.

"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," Roberson said.

Those 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).

In December, the service confirmed no women were in training for any special operations positions days after then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter wrote in a commentary published on Medium.com that a female airman was training to become a TACP. The woman to whom Carter referred had left the program the previous July because of an injury.

"When we do get the first woman in the pipeline, she'll be in the Battlefield Airman Training Group, 37th Training Wing, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland," Capt. Jose Davis of Air Education and Training Command told Military.com in October.

"After completion of training in the Battlefield Airman Training Group, airmen are then sent to their respective [Air Force Specialty Codes]" in various commands, Davis explained in an email statement.

"We're forging the airmen of the future every single day," Roberson said Friday. "It takes a lot of work."

Roberson in September said the Air Force is moving forward to consolidate eight locations it uses to train its battlefield airmen into "three or four."

Last year, the service stood up a new unit intended to consolidate and streamline training for its conventional and special operations ground forces at JBSA-Lackland. Because of the new program, "we think that we can do the training that we do at eight different locations probably much more effectively, efficiently -- certainly with less money -- if we did it at fewer locations," Roberson said again last week.

The service is conducting environmental assessment surveys for the following candidate locations: Eglin Air Force Base, Patrick AFB and Hurlburt Field in Florida; Joint Base San Antonio; Keesler AFB, Mississippi; Little Rock AFB, Arkansas; Shaw AFB, South Carolina; and Vandenberg AFB, California.

Six of the eight training locations have been reviewed, Roberson said, and he hopes to present the findings soon.

Reiterating his comments from September, the general said the review will also consider improved infrastructure with enhanced aquatic training for combat rescue and other missions.

Depending on how the Air Force consolidates the training centers, Roberson said there may be some military construction funding that could be put toward the aquatics center.

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