WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The more than 400,000 parents who serve as soldiers in the U.S. Army will soon see more benefits. The military branch released a new 12-part Parenthood, Pregnancy and Postpartum directive Thursday.
“I can sleep better at night knowing that other moms will not have to go through the same things that I had to go through,” said Staff Sgt. Nicole Pierce.
After getting little time off following her miscarriage and delayed promotions during her next two pregnancies, Staff Sgt. Pierce took charge of changing U.S. Army policies.
“The force is going toward a modern force rather than staying as it is,” she said.
“Every single policy change in this directive has a story behind it,” said Amy Kramer, the Army’s policy lead action officer.
Kramer, who authored the directive, said it includes more paid time off for miscarriages and allows soldiers who are pregnant or lost a child to get promoted and take the required training class later.
“You shouldn’t have to choose between a career and having a family,” said Maj. Sam Winkler.
Maj. Winkler noted while less than one percent of Army personnel are pregnant at any given time, these new regulations will make a huge impact on the entire force.
“The fact that this policy addresses parenthood as a whole I think is a huge win,” said Sgt. Maj. Mark Clark.
Sgt. Maj. Clark said many of the changes also apply to non-birth parents, like spouses, single parents, and adoptive parents. They can now also defer field training, deployment, and other assignments up to a full year after their child’s birth, remain at one base while their spouse receives fertility treatments and take paid time off for a pregnancy loss.
“I wish a policy like this was available for me then,” he said when sharing how he lost his first child a week after his birth.
With these benefits now available, these soldiers hope the Army’s recruitment and retention efforts only grow.
“It’s recognizing that in 2022, we have all different kinds of families going through all different kinds of life issues,” Maj. Winkler said. “And we can really take care of our families so we can retain the best of our soldiers.”
The directive also extends the time the new mothers must meet body fat requirements to a full year after giving birth, provides them with longer lactation breaks, and allows them to wear a combination of Army combat and maternity uniforms up to one year postpartum.
Of the more than 400,000 parents in the Army, 180,000 are women. About 29,000 are single father soldiers, which outnumbers single mothers three to one.
For more information, read the full directive here.