JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
The U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence held a leader professional development session focusing on U.S. Army Directive 2022-06 (Parenthood, Pregnancy, and Postpartum) at the Blesse Auditorium at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston June 9.
The event was hosted by Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster, MEDCoE commanding general, and featured guest speakers Amy Kramer, special assistant, Office of the Undersecretary of the Army, and Lt. Col. Lana Bernat, director, Female Force Readiness and Health, or 3SW325, and Women's Health Nursing Consultant to the Surgeon General. They provided the in-person audience and those watching online with insightful information on the background and implementation of this new directive.
“This is about People First, and this leader professional development session is the most important part of my day,” LeMaster said. “This is the right thing to do for humanity. I can almost feel the pressure on our pregnant females being relieved. This will create an environment and a community for children to thrive.”
With the recent publication directive 2022-06 April 19, the Army is attempting to make strides to become more family-friendly, in large part by accommodating the needs of Army women before, during and after they give birth.
“It is a privilege to work on this policy,” Kramer said. “This is an Army-wide effort and these are real human beings behind this policy.”
The directive modifies six existing policies, including extending exemptions for postpartum body composition, physical fitness testing and increasing family care plan flexibility. It also introduces six new policies, including policies related to professional military education, fertility treatment and pregnancy loss.
During the next hour, Kramer and Bernat went through the directive in detail while also covering many topics asked during their previous road shows.
They fielded questions covering a wide area of topics related to parenthood, pregnancy, and postpartum including assignments, temporary duty, fertility treatments, family care plans, convalescent leave, lactation policy and professional military education.
Throughout the presentation, attendees asked questions on topics before they were addressed on the briefing slides, demonstrating considerable interest in the new directive.
Providing background, Kramer explained this initiative did not originate within the Army.
“This did not start by a bunch of people whose day job is to write policy,” Kramer said. She stated that the idea was started by mothers, as young as O1 and E3, who volunteered on their own time to create Army Mom Life, a Facebook group to support each other, ask questions, share resources and get help.
The group moderators noticed that these issues were not one-offs, they were consistent with the same stories happening at different locations.
“They created an informal survey on the site and took the five biggest responses,” Kramer said.
They wrote a white paper from the responses, identifying the five biggest barriers, identifying the regulations that cover those barriers, and then recommending line-item edits to those regulations to remove them.
In response to the white paper, a working group was established at Manpower and Reserve Affairs to review the problems and solutions identified in the white paper. The working group modified the white paper's recommendations and included additional ongoing People First initiatives, to author 12 distinct policy recommendations into a single Army Directive.
As with any new Army directive, questions on how it will affect the Army remain. Both Kramer and Bernat carefully answered audience questions and emphasized the need to inform the service of the many benefits, particularly long-term ones, of maintaining a ready and resilient force.
The Army has more than 180,000 female Soldiers, according to reports. Approximately 98% of these women are in their childbearing years. While only about 6,000 women serving in the Army are pregnant at any one time, their well-being while pregnant, after giving birth, and later with their families, has a significant impact.
“It’s very important to understand the why because you will run into some people that are pushing back on this policy and are concerned it will have an impact on readiness,” Bernat said. “The long term is being able to retain a family is so beneficial for the Army. This policy impacts far beyond the mother, it impacts the child, the family, and the unit.”
This directive is aimed at making Army life easier for the over 400,000 parents within the total force, including 29,000 single fathers and 9,800 single mothers. In the past 10 years, more than 21,500 active-duty enlisted Soldiers have separated from the Army because of pregnancy or parenthood.
“This may improve our posture with our ability to recruit and retain. We may solve a lot of problems and make a better Army. This sets families up for success,” LeMaster said.
Directive 2022-06 is a long-term investment in the readiness of military parents by investing in Soldier wellness during and after pregnancy and improving quality of life during parenthood. The directive not only applies to active duty families, but it also outlines how these policies apply to Guard and Reserve components.
Kramer and Bernat thanked LeMaster on behalf of the Army Surgeon General and U.S. Army Medical Command for the opportunity to speak at MEDCoE. Their final slides displayed numerous encouraging comments they have heard as they speak to the service on directive 2022-06. They also encouraged the audience to share their stories.
“The reception has been positive,” Kramer said. “Where I need your help is to gather feedback and stories. Do you know anyone who is staying in the due to some of these changes? Do you know somebody who would have stayed if these changes had been in place? And even negative feedback, as we need that constructive feedback to make positive changes as we move forward.”
To download Army Directive 2022-06, visit https://armypubs.army.mil/ProductMaps/PubForm/Details.aspx?PUB_ID=1024798.