The Air Force wants to change the way it views women pilots.
The military wants to show women that they can lead and that their skills are valuable.
But, it wants to do it all with the air of inevitability.
The Air Forces, which oversees all military operations in the United States, wants to add more female pilots to its ranks.
But the Air Force’s plan is a big, bold undertaking that could take years to complete.
The proposal has been in the works for a while.
And it’s being taken seriously by some.
“It’s a big project,” says Lt.
Col. Kathleen O’Connor, a spokeswoman for the Air Forces’ Commanding General of the Air, Air Forces Space and Missile Systems.
“And we’re committed to making it happen.”
And, she adds, it’s an opportunity that the Air Corps will be proud to have.
“The Air Force recognizes that women are not equal to men in the Air,” she says.
The idea for the change was born in 2013.
The service was trying to decide whether to allow women to join its reserves, and then, in February of that year, the Air National Guard began taking applicants for that position.
So, it made a big push to find out how women were doing.
That was the first step.
After the women got accepted, the service enlisted the help of women-focused women’s studies groups, and launched a pilot program to identify what worked for them and what didn’t.
The program, called the Women in Aviation program, has now grown to include more than 10,000 applicants.
The goal is to have 10,500 women pilots in the reserve, or between two and eight years of flying time, by 2020.
The air force also hopes to make the training more intense.
“We’ve seen this with the Army and Marines, where the training is very intensive,” says O’Connors O&A, adding that the military wants the same level of training.
In a way, it already is.
“They are more experienced pilots than women,” she adds.
“But it’s the amount of training and the time that they have to invest in getting ready for flight.”
The Air National Guardsmen and women-led pilots also get to fly in formation, which is a rarity in the military.
“This is an opportunity for us to train with them and to train together, and it is a real opportunity for our members to share the experience,” says Maj. Gen. Jennifer McElroy, who heads the Air Base Command, the branch that oversees the Air Missions program.
“A lot of the times, women are less comfortable flying in formation than men.”
The women-run program is already a success.
There have been more than 200 women in the Reserve and 15,000 in the airborne program.
It’s also helped recruit some of the most experienced women pilots the Air force has ever had.
In addition to the women in flight, the women also train in training areas like aircraft management and training, and in the new training facility at Eglin Air Force Base.
The women also receive training in basic combat skills like how to take off and land a fighter.
It helps that the women have a lot of experience flying and flying with other women.
“When they are flying, it really shows that they are capable,” says Major Gen. Susan O’Sullivan, who is the commander of the women’s training group at Eglan.
“You can see their eyes glazing over.”
The effort is taking place on the heels of a new push for gender equity in the force.
Earlier this year, a federal court ruled that the Defense Department could no longer use the word “women” to describe women in uniform.
But with the Women In Aviation program and the Air Mission, the military is continuing to be inclusive.
“Women in aviation has a long history of being a way to connect and inspire and educate the next generation,” says Capt. Samantha E. Smith, the commander at Eglinton.
“I think this program has been really successful in that regard.”
This article originally appeared on New York magazine.
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