DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The Air Force is changing, and many say for the better.
Wednesday, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced nine initiatives that are aimed at bolstering diversity in the military branch and creating opportunities for career growth for women and minorities.
2 NEWS dug through the report.
Highlights of the new plan include the following:
- Mentorship programs towards various career paths, including officer training.
- Diversity and inclusion requirement for career field development chairs.
- Waiver for pilot height requirements, 64 to 77 inches, and sitting height of 34 to 40 inches, extending to ROTC cadets that would create new opportunities for female pilots
- Increase from 6 months to 12 months for post pregnancy deployment deferment.
All these changes hope to boost the diversity of the branch, and one local retired Air Force member is proud to witness these changes.
“I think the message is loud and clear in that there is a place for women in our United States Air Force,” Retired Colonel Cassie Barlow exclaimed! “We value all the contributions of women in the past that have been in the Air Force. And we want to encourage more to follow those career paths and to join us in the United States Air Force.”
The retired Wright-Patterson Air Force Base colonel tells 2 NEWS it’s the right time for the Air Force to put actions behind its commitment to diversity.
For many, Barlow herself is an example of the military contributions women have made.
“I was lucky enough to serve with the first women– woman fighter pilot squadron commander in the early 2000s. You know, we have General Wolfenbarger here who is one of the first women to graduate from the Air Force academy, so I think little by little we’re getting to the point of seeing how women and minorities can contribute to our Department of Defense,” reflected Barlow, currently serving as the executive director of the Aerospace Professional Development Center (APDC) at Wright State University.
She applauds the announcements and hopes the military leaders continue down this path of inclusion.
And to naysayers she asked, “Why not? Why isn’t this the right time? We’re seeing all sorts of other indicators of how women are contributing to society. We’re seeing more women CEOs. We’re seeing more women in leadership positions so this is the right time. This is absolutely the right time to be able to reach out to women and tell them there’s a great place for them in our Air Force.”
The former Wright State commander says she sees the initiative as a long-term goal for the Air Force.
She expects the plan to not only diversify the Air Force, but also encourage other branches to follow the Air Force’s lead.
For more on the initiative, read Secretary James’ plan here.