A few days ago, I noticed a disturbing tweet by Representative Dan Crenshaw about preferential treatment and lowered standards in the Air Force Special Tactics selection course. Having sufficient background to be fairly confident in my understanding of the matter, I’ll place links to many of my sources here, here, here, here, here, and here. The gist of the story is that the Air Force Special Tactics community encountered wokeness, but resistance in the lower ranks sparked a backlash.
Air Force Special Tactics provides Air Force experts who can ensure world-class Air Force support for any Special Operations team. They must be ready to join any Special Operations team on short notice, whether Navy SEALS, Army Green Berets, Rangers, or even more secretive units.
In 2018, a female Special Tactics Officer entered Special Tactics training, where she quit in the first week of dive training. She was then not selected for continued training. In 2019, she returned and retook the course and did not pass again, but higher leadership dictated her selection for Special Tactics officer training. She then went through more training while continuing to quit. She quit in dive training, but the leadership had her retake a more relaxed version of the course. She then quit in the solo land navigation portion of her tactical training.
She encountered the physical differences between highly athletic men and women being tested to their limits. In one event, “she just physically couldn’t flip the tire,” the instructor said. “The team handed her a kettlebell and she just kind of walked behind the team for the rest of the iteration.” The officer herself reportedly wrote, “I believe the change in standards invalidated me with a majority of my team … the cadre [instructors] ‘rioted’ when they found out the PT test was changing back to lesser standards.” Despite her repeated desire to quit — Air Force Special Operations leadership would not allow her to find a different career path. Instead, she began working directly for the commander of Air Force Special Operations Command — where she wrote a report and an Equal Opportunity Complaint resulting in an investigation of everyone who interacted with her.
Now, according to the memo, she will return again to retake the Special Operations Course, with instructions from above, that she will graduate, whether or not she meets standards. As of now, an investigation into this matter is being conducted by the Air Force inspector general.
What I want to elucidate is how this episode is representative of how wokeness often works and how it was resisted.
First, the project to bring women into Air Force Special Tactics is a luxury project, not a pressing need. The raids that killed terrorist leaders bin Laden and al-Baghdadi demonstrate the maturity and fine-tuned edge that Special Operations has honed, with countless unheralded missions successfully accomplished in our lifetime. There are no public examples of a failed mission that would have succeeded if only had a female Air Force Special Tactics officer been present. In other words, this is fixing what ain’t broke.
Throughout the Air Force, women are already closely integrated into virtually all careers and are not formally denied anywhere. However, Special Operations has very high prestige, and just as in the civilian world, the diversity and inclusion focus is on high-prestige fields — CEOs, politicians, engineers, and airline pilots, and not on lower-prestige areas such as plumbers, oil-field roughnecks, and sanitation workers.
Second, this is a top-down project started in the Obama administration. In 2013, the Obama-era Defense Department set a timeline of 2016 for women to join ground special operations forces. A female officer, who was not a Special Tactics officer, was placed second in command of most Special Tactics airmen. She was placed there “for the first wave of female operators.” And the top general for Air Force Special Operations has clearly demonstrated by his actions that he is aware and pushing for the unnamed female to pass the special operations course.
Third, the project relies on a lack of transparency and lies or near-lies about the nature of reality and objective facts. The first lie or obfuscation of reality is that standards will be sex-neutral and will not be lowered to accommodate women. According to reporting, the physical standards were lowered just before the female officer arrived at the course. Her instructors all knew that her passing scores were failing scores before she arrived. The high physical standards for Special Operations are based on the objective needs of the mission — the need to carry heavy loads over rough terrain, the need to drag the wounded to safety, the need to swim long distances in rough seas. Lowering the passing scores does not change that.
This is like the D.C. high school where every senior was admitted to college — even those who couldn’t read! Inherent physical performance differences between men and women mean that a standard lowered enough for sufficient women to pass may not be challenging for men or realistic for the mission. It risks turning Special Operations into Just Above Average Operations.
Fourth, the ramifications of such a project could result in serious damage to the national treasure that is SpecOps. Imagine the small community of rank-and-file Special Tactics airmen knowing that their leader cannot physically lead from the front and that she was willing to charge her instructors with discrimination. In other words, what should be a trusting, close-knit family forged from shared experience will become a unit without trust or mutual respect, where it’s best to watch what you say and think.
The rank and file must imagine that if these are the lengths to which leadership is willing to take to get the demographic results wanted, how much farther will this trend go? Will selection mostly be a matter of quota and not a measure of individual character? Will Special Ops become just an extension of the local woke campus?
However, a few people have been willing to live not by lies. This is similar in some ways to whistleblowers sharing stories of Critical Race Theory at their companies, or to the parents who have stood up to school board malpractice. An anonymous SpecOps memo-writer was willing to blow the whistle, knowing that in all likelihood, he would be discovered and his career ended. This story, with its overtones of double standards, favoritism, and wokeness, appeals to a sense of injustice — and more importantly, the discussion is still based in objective reality. It was championed by a politician, Dan Crenshaw, with a stake in that community. News organizations have not stifled the issue — with the Air Force Times, in particular, being able to find sources and credible information to back up the whistleblower.
Quite simply, regardless of the outcome, it is important to stand up for reality, even if it means sacrifice.