Senate passes measure celebrating Air Force Academy women

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Cadet 1st Class Amy Silverbush steps away from the stage after receiving her diploma at the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2016 graduation at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 2, 2016. Liz Copan/United States Air Force Academy
Cadet 1st Class Amy Silverbush steps away from the stage after receiving her diploma at the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2016 graduation at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 2, 2016. Liz Copan/United States Air Force Academy

Senate passes measure celebrating Air Force Academy women

by: Tom Roeder, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) (Tribune News Service) | .
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published: December 05, 2016

The U.S. Senate last week passed a belated resolution celebrating women at the Air Force Academy.

Approved Dec. 1, the measure officially, albeit retroactively, names Oct. 8 as "40 Years of Women Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy Day.''

The measure celebrates a move by the Ford administration to open the nation's service academies to female cadets. Picking which date to celebrate academy women isn't easy, though.

President Gerald Ford signed the law admitting women to the schools on Oct. 7, 1975. The first females joined the academy's ranks as freshmen cadets on June 26, 1976.

The first women graduated from the academy in 1980.

Colorado's Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said there's plenty for Air Force women to celebrate, despite calendar confusion.

"Forty years ago, the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado became the first military academy to admit female cadets," Gardner said in a statement. "Our female cadets have gone on to command Air Force combat units, earn the rank of 4-star general, and serve as superintendent of the Academy. These women, along with the thousands of other female cadets who now serve in the Air Force and other branches of the military, serve as role models to young women and all of those around our nation who wish to serve their country and I thank them for their service."

Two of the women mentioned by Gardner are serving now in Colorado Springs. Gen. Lori Robinson this year became the first woman to lead one of America's combat commands when she took the helm of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base.

While not an academy graduate, Robinson is the highest-ranking female to ever wear Air Force blue.

Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, a 1981 academy graduate, is in her fourth year commanding the school as superintendent. She's the first woman to hold that post. Both of those generals have said their rise to wearing stars had little to do with their gender. But their opportunities can be tracked back to Gerald Ford.

Colorado's Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who sponsored the laudatory resolution with Gardner, said the measure celebrates all women in uniform, including those who are now allowed to serve in combat thanks to the Defense Department changing its rules in March.

"This resolution honors the tremendous contributions female service members have made to our armed forces and to our national security," Bennet said in a statement. "Their achievements are a testament to their dedication and sacrifice, and our nation is stronger because of their service. I am grateful the Air Force Academy opened the door to female cadets 40 years ago."

©2016 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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