In the summer of 2021, Lt. Col. Nicole Stenstad, 16th Airlift Squadron commander, while researching unconscious gender bias, came up with the idea to try and remove the “G-code” from Air Mobility Command flight authorizations.
AFI 11-401, Aviation Management, instructs the use of AF Form 4327A, including a “Mandatory Remarks” section that uses letter codes to denote the qualifications, duties, and mission status of each flight crew member.
The AMC supplement to the AFI mandated the letter “G” for female crew members—a legacy marker once intended to secure appropriate lodging and readiness items for crew members.
In November 2022, informed by squadron-level input, AMC removed the “G” code from flight authorizations. Chief Master Sgt. Patrick Gray, AMC Aviation Resource Management functional manager, sent out field guidance to all AMC squadron aviation resource management offices that said, “Unlike the other codes listed, the “G” designation has no bearing on the individual’s experience, qualification, or currency in the aircraft. Identifying the gender of crew members is unnecessary to the completion of duties.”
Gray’s email would go on to say, “Effective immediately, SARM offices will no longer identify female crew members on flight authorizations.”
The removal of the designation was not an overnight accomplishment, rather the product of the work of many Airmen from the lowest level.
Stenstad first reached out to Majors Kelsey Payton and Jennifer Walters, as well as other members of REACH ATHENA, the AMC women’s initiative team. Although supportive of the idea, Payton advised Stenstad to collect more research and anecdotes about the code’s potential negative effects.
“I was a bit disappointed,” Stenstad said. “I personally felt that the need for the change was pretty apparent. But I understood where [they] were coming from.”
In November 2021, during a 437th Airlift Wing women’s mentoring group at Joint Base Charleston, members discussed various topics, to include the “G-code.” From there, progress began.
With buy-in from squadron leadership across the 437th Operations Group, they discussed how to make the change and break through the bureaucracy. The change began with a waiver, requesting to remove the code instead of changing the entire AFI.
In January 2022, AMC approved the waiver specifically for the 437th AW, whose aircrew then flew hundreds of missions without it.” The wing reported zero negative impacts to the mission.
Thanks to the efforts of Airmen across the 437th AW, and now with Gray’s email to SARM offices across AMC bases, the code has been removed from all flight authorizations AMC-wide.
“I’ve had female flyers express that they will miss their “G-code,” Stenstad said, “But they know that this is a win for eliminating unconscious bias.”