Written by Dabney B. on Friday, June 1st, 2012
It’s been a complicated week for women in the United States Air Force. One woman is breaking records and challenging gender stereotypes, while a few other women are in hot water for taking a stand.
Let’s start with our best foot forward, shall we? Col. Jeannie Leavitt is a big name for women in the USAF. Not only did she become the USAF’s first female fighter pilot back in 1993, but she also just secured the honor of being the first woman to take command of a fighter wing. The ceremony, which is taking place today, will give Col. Leavitt command of the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. This will put 5,000 duty men and women and 12,000 civilians under her instruction. If we may be so bold: You go, girl!
Col. Leavitt is confident that this is a decision based on merit rather than the Air Force trying to make a political statement. She said, “People began to see that we were [flying fighter jets] because of our abilities and not our gender.” She backs up that statement with a rather lengthy resume. She’s logged over 2,500 hours in the F-15, which includes 300 hours over Iraq and Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. Lawrence Wells, Leavitt’s superior, had only good things to say about her: “She’s a great wingman. She has everything she needs to be a great commander.” Wells flew with Leavitt in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Senior Airman Terran Echegoyen-McCabe and Staff Sgt. Christina Luna are in hot water after a photoshoot. These military mothers each donned their uniforms and allowed pictures to be taken of them in support of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and now the two women are facing harsh criticism. Click here to see the picture.
But don’t read this as a crusade by the Department of Defense or the US government against breastfeeding. The USAF does not particularly care about breastfeeding one way or another and does not have an official policy about breastfeeding in uniform. The problem, according to Capt. Keith Kosik, is that they were endorsing an outside cause.
The USAF has a very clear and strict policy about what servicemen and servicewomen aren’t allowed to do while in uniform. They abslutely cannot wear their uniform while endorsing a cause, a product, or to imply an endorsement. Kosik explains the problem, “The uniform was misused. That’s against regulations. [...] Our issue is not, nor has it ever been, about breastfeeding. It has to do with honoring the uniform and making sure it’s not misused. I can’t wear my uniform to a political rally, to try to sell you something, or push an ideology.”
Overall, it sounds like an ever-so-slight loss and a major win for the fight for women’s rights in the military.
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