War and the single mother

Should single mothers of young children be allowed to serve in the military and be deployed to war?

It’s the case of Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, an Army cook and the mother of a 10-month old son in Georgia. She’s refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because, she says, there’s nobody to care for her child. She’s afraid the Army will force her to put her son in foster care.

A spokesman for Hunter Army Airfield said the Army would not deploy a single parent who had nobody to care for his or her child.

According to the group, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, more than 40-percent of enlisted women have children, and more than 30,000 single mothers have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The current operational tempo has created considerable pressure to change the Defense Department’s maternity policy. According to the GAO, “about 10 percent of women in the military become pregnant each year, and 75,000 military offspring are younger than one,” as of 2002. The military gives new mothers six weeks of maternity leave before they have to return to work or training. However, each service branch has its own post-birth deferment-from-deployment policy. The Army, which has the longest tours of duty at 12 months, gives women just 4 months to stay stateside with their newborns before deploying to the war zone, leaving little time to bond with or nurse

their infants. Other military branches grant longer stays and have shorter deployment lengths. For example, the Marines offer 6 month deferments and their tours average

7 months.

According to Maj. Gen. Gayle Pollock, former acting Army surgeon general, the Army should increase its maternity deferments to at least 8 months, with 12 months

being the most ideal: “We need to look at the fact that many women want to serve but they also want to be mothers.

It’s a medical issue, it’s a mental health issue. Your ability to bond with your children is…very important.” Congress has also asked the Pentagon to fix the disparity that exists between the service branches, but no official action has been taken to date.”

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