The Department of the Air Force has updated a policy to allow women, both enlisted and civilian, to apply and compete for an Officer Training School commission while pregnant.
Under the new guidance reflected in DAF Manual 36-2032, Military Recruiting and Accessions, pregnant Airmen, Guardians and civilians can now apply for OTS commissioning and, if selected, will attend training between six to 14 and a half months after completion of the pregnancy.
Enlisted selectees who do not pass the physical fitness test or civilian selectees who are unable to obtain a qualifying physical within the above post-pregnancy timelines may lose their selection status. Selectees who desire to attend OTS prior to six months postpartum may request a waiver.
“We’re in a race for talent, and our policies need to reflect that,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones, who directed a gender policy review after learning about the previous policy and other obstacles service women face within the Department. “This policy change will ensure we’re able to fully tap into the talent amongst our force as well as those looking to join us.”
Prior to the change, DAF policy required OTS applicants to be worldwide qualified at the time of application, preventing women from applying during pregnancy through the 12-month postpartum period.
The policy change is welcome news to those in the recruiting community who face challenges meeting annual recruiting goals in the post-pandemic environment where the labor market is low and interest in joining the military is declining.
“I’ve taken several calls from active-duty Airmen who could not apply due to the previous policy so this is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Lt. Col. Scott Black, Air Force Recruiting Service chief of officer accessions. “From a recruiting standpoint, it’s also important that we are able to access the full pool of qualified candidates for commissioning to ensure we have the talent we need to meet our national security objectives,” Black said.
Applying for an OTS commission was particularly challenging for enlisted Airmen who struggled to align family planning with OTS boards and timeline requirements such as overseas return dates and time on station, according to Capt. Frances Castillo, who was part of the effort to revise the policy as a member of the DAF Women’s Initiative Team.
“This policy update will attract female talent to the officer ranks. It unequivocally shatters the glass ceiling that has kept or delayed hundreds of women from competing for a DAF commission,” said Castillo. “Thanks to a group of persevering Airmen leading change from the grassroots level, combined with senior leaders slashing bureaucracy, highly-qualified candidates will no longer need to choose between advancing their careers or growing their family.”
The new guidance applies to the Regular Air Force, the United States Space Force, the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard.
The updated guidance can be found here.