Since 9/11, I have worked side by side with folks in the Air Force every day. The universal term for any one of these is Airman. It rhymes precisely with chairman -- which means that the -man is here merely suffixal, the vowel being unstressed and qualitatively reduced: chairm’n, airm’n. (Phonetically, the unstressed vowel has been demoted to at most a schwa, and often has disappeared altogether, the -n becoming syllabic by compensation: cf. rock ‘n’ roll. -- Contrast the vowel in stunt man, which remains full.)
Accordingly, the term *airwoman does not exist, and no-one is clamoring for it. And no-one, but no-one, is demanding to be rechristened as *airpeople or *airpersons or *airindividuals or *Americans with airiness or whatever.
The USAF has a lot of cool slang, and perhaps sometime I’ll share it (or you… airmen can add your favorites in a comment to this post); but the point here is merely to notice the irenic lexical state of affairs in today’s Air Force, versus the hurry-scurrying going on over at the Marines, as reported in today’s MSM:
The Marines just took ‘man’ out of 19 job titles, and people are losing their minds
The force will rename 19 of its job titles to make occupational specialties more gender neutral. Critics argue political correctness is taking over the military.
“You’d think someone who has seen combat would have more stones.”
“You know, I was going to [complain] about PC crap … but “Infantry Assault Marine” sounds kinda cool …”
Now, there are neologisms and neologisms; this batch seems to have been crafted with a good ear, at any rate. Infantry Assault Marine does indeed sound way cool.