The U.S. Air Force is being accused of bending the rules and pushing a female officer through the Special Tactics Officer (STO) program despite allegations she repeatedly quit the training. The Air Force told American Military News the allegations are “factually incorrect or missing context” and say training standards are different now compared to years before.
The allegations were raised by an anonymous Air Force combat controller and first shared via Twitter on Wednesday by Brian Kimber, an Air Force Pararescue (PJ) veteran, journalist and podcaster. Kimber’s tweets were reposted the same day by Navy SEAL veteran and Congressman Dan Crenshaw, who called on the military to address the allegations if they’re true, and warned against bending training rules.
“We cannot sacrifice training standards. Ever. Full stop. If this account is true, our military needs to address it now,” Crenshaw wrote. “To be clear, there are lots of females that contribute enormously to Special Operations missions. But they get to that point by following strict standards which ensure they can be relied upon in combat. Subverting those standards will cost lives.”
Kimber said the allegations were provided directly to him, and called them “an absolutely BRUTAL account” including names of Air Force leadership allegedly involved.
In response to an American Military News request for comment on the allegations, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) commander Lt. Gen. James Slife said:
The anonymous email’s author is concerned about training standards. We can unequivocally say the standards—which are tied to mission accomplishment—have not changed.
However, there is a difference between standards and norms. How we bring trainees through the training pipeline today is different than the way we brought them through the pipeline 15 years ago because our understanding of the best way to get trainees to meet standards and be ready to join the operational force has evolved. It will continue to do so. Norms may adapt over time, but the standards are always tied to our mission. As the mission changes, the needed standards may change as well, but that hasn’t happened in this case.
The author chose to make the point about standards by highlighting one individual trainee. Singling out a fellow servicemember for public abuse is bullying and harassment, which are unacceptable deviations from both our standards, our norms and values as Airmen.
Furthermore, most of what the author asserted about this trainee’s experience is either factually incorrect or missing important context which would completely change the perception. However, in order to avoid adding to the attention and pressure this trainee is facing—attention and pressure the author did not experience during his own journey—we will not address specific details related to her experiences.
Slife’s statement was later posted to his AFSOC Commander Facebook page and the public was blocked from commenting as of Friday.
The anonymous allegations describe Cpt. Morgan Mosby, a female Air Force officer, who is said to have initially arrived at Special Tactics Officer (STO) Phase II training in 2018. Phase II training is a week-long selection process. Despite quitting during a rigorous pool session, Mosby reportedly remained in the training and was given the chance to finish.
Mosby reportedly completed that training, though she was considered a non-selected to proceed through STO. She was, however, invited to return and try again.
In January 2020, Mosby reportedly restarted the two to three-year STO training pipeline with the Special Tactics Training Squadron (STTS) at Hurlburt Field in Florida. During that time, Mosby reportedly became known for quitting at various points during training but accounts of her quitting were allegedly “brushed under the rug,” particularly because her progression through the course was being monitored by Congress and AFSOC leadership.
Mosby chose to “self eliminate” or drop out of the course after a particular land-navigation training event, but then-24th Special Operations Wing (24th SOW) Commander Col. Matthew Allen and second-in-command Col. Allison Black tried to talk Mosby into staying, the allegations said.
Black and Allen allegedly offered Mosby a spot in the more highly selective Tier One Special Mission Unit (SMU). Typically, special operations forces (SOF) members have to complete a separate selection process for Tier One units.
Another alleged instance of preferential treatment came in the spring of 2021 when Mosby was reportedly offered the chance to write an after-action report (AAR) for the AFSOC commander. While it’s common for special operations trainees to write AARs, it is rare for them to rise to the level of leadership that Mosby’s was. In her report, Mosby wrote about her experience as a female in the special tactics pipeline. Her AAR even reportedly set off an investigation into the treatment of women in the AFSOC community.
Around the spring and summer of 2021, Mosby was reportedly selected to serve under Lt. Gen. Slife at AFSOC headquarters. There, Mosby was tasked with auditing the latest Air Force Combat Control standards, despite her lack of experience on the matter.
While working at AFSOC headquarters, Mosby filed an Equal Opportunity complaint, alleging instructors in the special tactics training course tried to coerce her into quitting. According to the combat controller’s allegations, Mosby had been known to have told other trainees that she quit voluntarily and disliked the special tactics community as a whole.
As of December, the special tactics community was reportedly informed Mosby would return to STTS and resume training where she left off. According to the combat controller, Lt. Gen. Slife was the driving force behind the reinstatement, and Col. Jason Daniels, the current 24th SOW commander supported it.
Then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced all combat roles were open to women in December 2015, and since then, numerous women have taken their shot at special operations training programs, but few have successfully completed the training.
The first woman graduated Army Special Forces training to become a Green Beret in 2020, and the first female sailor completed Navy Special Warfare Training in 2021. In July 2021, Air Force Lt. Col. Malinda Singleton told Military.com that two enlisted females were undergoing Air Force Special Warfare training.