The Air Force has ordered an investigation into allegations published by the Free Beacon that it gave "preferential treatment" to a female Special Tactics trainee who failed to meet the program's demanding physical standards.
In a Friday letter addressed to the entire Air Force, Lt. Gen. James Slife, who leads the Air Force Special Operations Command, said he asked the military branch's inspector general to probe claims that a female candidate advanced through the Air Force's elite Special Tactics training pipeline even after she repeatedly quit the program. Typically, the decision to quit would lead to removal from the pipeline. In this case, however, the female trainee "was invited to return" on multiple occasions, according to an anonymously published account by a service member.
"To ensure the integrity of the process, I have asked the Secretary of the Air Force to direct his Inspector General to conduct an independent review of the allegations contained in the email," Slife said in the letter.
The investigation comes days after the Free Beacon published the accusations of preferential treatment, which Slife criticized as an act of "bullying and harassment" against the female trainee. Slife insisted in the letter that the "standards have not changed to accommodate women," but acknowledged that "the norms of how we train Special Tactics operators have certainly changed over time."
"Beyond standards, there are norms, which are those things which reflect something usual or expected. It's easy to conflate standards and norms, because over time, the norms we establish can come to be viewed as ‘the standard,'" Slife wrote. "Our standards must always be connected to the requirements of the mission and we have not and will not adjust standards to accommodate an individual or a demographic. I don't believe that's happened in this case, but an independent review will discern whether it has or hasn't."
An Air Force spokeswoman confirmed to the Free Beacon that the secretary of the Air Force has indeed directed the Inspector General to review the allegations.
In his letter, Slife also attacked the anonymous author for his "abusive bullying and vindictive harassment" of the female trainee highlighted, as well as others concerned about changing standards.
"To the author of the anonymous email and those who share the same perspective, please know it is you who haven't met our standards," Slife said.