Air Force working to open last 7 jobs to women


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JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (AP) — The Air Force's top boss said Monday she hopes to make all jobs in the service open to qualified women in the next year and a half.

Seven jobs in the service are closed to women, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters during a visit to Hawaii on Monday.

James said the Air Force is working on establishing gender-neutral standards for the positions and opening them to whoever is qualified.

"That is to say, whatever the standard is, it would be the same for men and women," she said.

An April 2013 Air Force memo says there were 4,600 people in the seven jobs, which include combat rescue officer and enlisted combat controller.

In January 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted a ban on women in special operations and long-range reconnaissance units and told the armed forces to come up with detailed plans to open closed jobs.

The Air Force already has more jobs open to women than any of the services, James said. Most jobs closed to women are in the Army.

James, who became secretary in December 2013, said she also wants to boost the Air Force's retention of women, noting women at mid-career leave the service at twice the rate of their male counterparts.

"So we need to bore down and figure out why that is happening and how we can turn that around," she said.

James stopped in Hawaii as part of an 11-day tour of Air Force bases in the Asia-Pacific region. She's expected to go to Guam, Japan, South Korea and Alaska. It's her first trip to the region since becoming head of the Air Force.

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