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Soldiers’ Rights to Family | Military Resources

I can’t say enough good thing about Army Directive 2022-06 (Parenthood, Pregnancy, and Postpartum), which has consolidated (and–in some cases–significantly improved) most pregnancy, birth, loss, and adoption-related regulations. When I read it in April, it literally brought tears to my eyes! I am so grateful for the handful of women Soldiers from The Army Mom Life Facebook Group who volunteered their time and effort to make it a reality. They shared their personal stories of hardship and offered their experience to benefit the rest of the force for many generations to come.

I found out about the origination of the directive because I had connected with one of the women in the group during my pregnancy in 2020. I was experiencing pregnancy discrimination from my commander and I needed help in understanding my rights.

Pregnancy Discrimination Sucks

This directive was long overdue because up until its publishing, Army policies about pregnant, postpartum, and parenting Soldiers were strewn across four or five Army publications, and written in hard-to-understand language, which required a law degree to consolidate and decipher. As a result, many Army commanders did whatever the heck they wanted to pregnant, postpartum, and parenting Soldiers. This discrimination often included passive-aggressively punishing pregnant women for being non-deployable through assigning extra duty, giving poor evaluations, preventing issuance of awards, rejecting leave requests, and denying promotions. (For you non-Army readers, being non-deployable is like the unpardonable sin in the Army. You are basically considered “dead weight” until you become deployable again. Toxic leaders–some of whom control almost every aspect of your professional life–can abuse their authority to make your life miserable because they have very little oversight.)

My Discrimination Story

As a newly married Soldier I got pregnant one year after I reported to my last Army Reserve unit. I was not slated to deploy anywhere and it was a planned pregnancy because–well–my body’s ability to make babies will be coming to an end sooner rather than later. So I was shocked to experience the same pregnancy discrimination that is most often received by new Soldiers: privates, lieutenants who don’t know their rights or how to fight for them. I was a lieutenant colonel with 15 years of service and two combat tours under my belt when I got married and decided to start a family. I guess I thought my fellow Soldiers would say, “thanks for your faithful service thus far; we will support your rights to pursuing your family’s welfare from now on.” Boy, was I wrong!

Photo of me sitting underneath a tree in my pregnancy uniform.

Photo of me standing on a dock in my pregnancy uniform with my hands around my belly.
Photo of me making a heart on my belly while standing on a dock in my pregnancy uniform.

My commander, a colonel who never had children, directed her unit to cancel most of my scheduled Army Reserve training–to the tune of $15,000 of lost income for my family–because I was pregnant. She said “only deployable Soldiers are entitled to receiving joint training”, and added that she would not allow me to get joint credit because my joint billet should go to “someone more deserving”.

Even when I showed her that her actions were against Army regulation, even when I got a military lawyer who said the same thing, and even when I finally got our two-star active duty commander to order her to reverse her decision, she insisted that she had done nothing wrong. When I told her that her actions were gender discrimination, she replied, “I wouldn’t throw that word around lightly.” I gave her one chance to repent: “Ma’am, if you will say right now that you will never do this to another Soldier ever again, I will let it go. But if you don’t, I will file an official complaint.” She replied, “I will say no such thing.”

Realizing she would gladly do this to someone else if I let her get away with it, I submitted an Equal Opportunity discrimination complaint against her. After a nine-month investigation, her two-star Army Reserve commander judged that her actions were discriminatory, albeit unintentional. (What?! I guess she changed her tune and feigned ignorance when she realized she was going to get in trouble.) She received the “administrative punishment” of having a letter in her board file about the discrimination case.

Meanwhile, I was unable to reschedule the training I had missed. This resulted in my having to volunteer for an active duty tour to make up for our lost family income. That meant that not only would I have to turn down the opportunity to take battalion command, I would lose the opportunity stay home with my baby for her first year. Because of my commander’s irreversible actions, I had to become a reluctant working mom.

God Always Gets Justice

Although I was disappointed at the “hand-slap” she seemed to have received, I have learned to leave justice in God’s hands. That’s why, I was not surprised when, just a few months later, the Army published a new policy stating that all colonels who had letters about discrimination in their bird files would be barred from promotion and, in some cases, put out of the Army.


Hope for the Future

I have greater hope for future generations of Soldier parents because with this directive and other policies that support it, toxic commanders like her will have to try much harder to be so abusive in their authority over men and women in the Army who are trying to have families.

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