First female candidate enters Combat Controller pipeline

Jack Murphy
November 04, 2019 - 12:09 pm
TACP call for fire training

DVIDs, Photo by 1st Lt. Susan Penning

For the first time, a female airman has entered the training pipeline to become a combat controller. 

According to the Air Force Times, she has begun the combat controller preparatory course and if she passes she will then move on to the assessment and selection phase. If selected, she would then begin the intensive training program required to certify as an Air Force combat controller.

Since the Combat Exclusive Policy was lifted in 2013 by the Joint Chiefs, a small number of women have tried out for various special operations selection programs. Women can now serve in combat arms positions in units such as Special Forces and the 75th Ranger Regiment, but as of yet, none have made it through the training pipeline to wear the Green Beret of U.S. Special Forces.

A female officer did pass the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program in 2017, but the Pentagon declined to release further information about her. The Navy SEALs have yet to have a women graduate from their Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course. Currently, a female airman has endeavored to join Air Force pararescue, but she has yet to begin training. Additionally, more than 30 female soldiers have graduated from Ranger School, earning the black-and-gold Ranger tab.

Air Force combat controllers are an elite group within Air Force Special Operations, performing high-risk technical tasks in stressful combat environments that involve controlling air space and communicating with air assets. In essence, combat controllers work as tactical air traffic controllers in war zones. They establish airfields, landing zones, manage tactical communications with aircraft and call in airstrikes. The entire training pipeline lasts several years and is both physically and academically challenging. 

Nine previous female candidates have tried out for Air Force Special Operations units but none have made it through selection and training.

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Reach Jack Murphy: or @JackMurphyRGR.