The U.S. Air Force Academy is pushing back after recent reports accusing it of overly "woke" policies that bar cadets from using "gender-specific terms" such as Mom or Dad, boyfriend or girlfriend.
An informational slide on "inclusive language," included as part of a recent employee diversity seminar, was intended to demonstrate how "respect for others should be used to build inclusive teams."
"It is the diversity of Airmen and Guardians coming from all corners of our nation who perform the Department of the Air Force's hundreds of critical mission sets that make us the best, most innovative Air and Space Forces the world has ever known," according to a statement from the Academy.
Rep. Mike Waltz, a Green Beret and Afghan War veteran who represents Florida's 6th Congressional District, was among those who called out the academy for hosting a diversity and inclusion summit that struck him as anything but.
"It's been a tradition in the military to get letters from Mom and Dad or your boyfriend and girlfriend for as long as there's been a military," he told Fox News Digital.
"Now we're instructing every cadet entering the Air Force to not say Mom and Dad, to not say boyfriend or girlfriend. ... I think the Air Force should be worried about the macro-aggressions against America that are happening all over the world."
Air Force Academy officials say that's simply not what's happening, and that the wording on the slide in the employee seminar was taken out of context.
"The Air Force Academy does not prohibit the use of 'Mom and Dad' or other gender-specific terms," according to the academy. "The slide in question was not intended to stand alone."
The slide on "inclusive language" was meant to "demonstrate how respect for others should be used to build inclusive teams" and ultimately build better offensive and defensive units, said the Air Force Academy. "Until you know a person's situation," it counsels, "we should not make assumptions about them."
The words it used to make such a point "began their evolution long before the current conversation took roots," it said.
According to the academy, discussions about updating the policy began with cadet leaders and academy staff who wanted to "introduce all cadets to Department of the Air Force definitions of diversity and inclusion, as well as how these concepts enhance our warfighting effectiveness."
"USAFA develops leaders of character that can lead diverse teams of Airmen and Guardians inclusively, to enhance innovation and win future conflict," said the academy. "It is the diversity of Airmen and Guardians coming from all corners of our nation who perform the Department of the Air Force's hundreds of critical mission sets that make us the best, most innovative Air and Space Forces the world has ever known."