Air Force sets plan to integrate women in combat jobs by 2016 Published June 20, 2013 By Staff Sgt. David Salanitri Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force released details of the service's plan to fully integrate women into previously closed career fields June 18. The implementation plan was recently submitted to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel for review. More than 99 percent of Air Force positions are currently already open to female Airmen. In fact, 2013 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Department of Defense allowing women to serve as combat pilots. The Air Force plans to open the remaining seven career fields -- all tied to special operations -- by Jan. 1, 2016. "The Air Force has been actively integrating women into nontraditional skills since 1972," said Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso, the director of force management policy and deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. "Today, less than one percent of all positions - Active, Guard, and Reserve - are closed to women. This equates to approximately 4,700 positions in a total force of 506,000 people." The current Air Force specialty codes that do not allow females to enter due to the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule include: combat rescue officer; special tactics officer; special operations weather officer; enlisted combat controller; enlisted tactical air command and control party; enlisted pararescue and enlisted special operations weather. According to the Air Force's plan, the service will validate occupational fitness standards for every career field. Once the standards are validated for the seven skills currently closed to women, the Air Force will notify Congress of its intent to open these skills to women and begin recruiting into these skills. Grosso expects recruiting will begin Oct. 2015. This implementation plan came as a result of former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinding the 1994 Direct Ground Combat exclusion rule for women in January 2013. This rule restricted women from assignments in special operations and long range reconnaissance units.