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SECAF, CSAF: Gender irrelevant to mission accomplishment

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (July 22, 2002) -- The importance of women in today’s Air Force is not lost on Air Force senior leadership. In fact, said the service’s chief of staff recently, women have played key roles in the Air Force’s performance over the past decade.

“We've won three wars in the last 10 years,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. John P. Jumper during an interview taped for the July 22 and Aug. 5 editions of Air Force Television News. “We had plenty of women not just flying the airplanes, but fixing the airplanes, guarding the gate and in all roles.”

According to Air Force Personnel Center demographics, the population of women in the Air Force has increased from 33,000 in 1975 to more than 70,000. As a result, women now serve in nearly every Air Force career field, including such traditionally male-dominated career fields as aircraft maintenance.

“I visited some [B-1 Lancers] overseas in the gulf,” said Secretary of the Air Force Dr. James G. Roche. “I remember a young mechanic…I said, ‘How about these engines?’ She said, ‘If you say anything bad about these engines, you deal with me.’ And I looked down at her with her three stripes, and I said, ‘Yes, ma'am!’

“Absolutely impressive.”

The number of women in the cockpit has also increased. The 458 female pilots account for about 3.7 percent of the total pilots in the service. Less than 10 years ago, that figure was only 1.6 percent. Jumper, a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours, commented specifically on the role of the female pilots he has flown with, and the irrelevance of gender to the pilot career field.

“I've flown against some of the [female] fighter pilots before, and they do a magnificent job,” he said. “If you want to fly an airplane, and that's your passion, it shouldn't matter what your gender is.”

Roche agreed.

“The intellectual content of what we do is so high that [gender] makes no difference,” the secretary said. “(We have) a force where there is room for people based on their merit.”