There may be no Regulation against Military Moms Breast Feeding while in Uniform but it Breaks a few other Regulations

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 2nd, 2012

Week in Review

When I was in college I had a friend that was in ROTC.  This is perhaps the most relaxed military environment there is.  Yet there were some pretty strict standards if I remember correctly.  Especially when it came to the uniform.  Even to the type and color of underwear they wore underneath (for both men and women). 

Cadets could not sling a backpack over their shoulder.  Their suit coat could not be worn unbuttoned.  Shoes had to be polished.  No webbing of the belt could show between the tip of the belt and the buckle.  There was something called the gig-line where the edge of the belt had to align with edge of the pants fly or something.  I think the tie had to be a double Windsor knot.  Even the hat had to be worn precisely (something like two fingers between the bottom of the hat and the eyebrow).  The little button in the back vent of the overcoat had to be buttoned.  There could be no wrinkles.  Or lint.  When a superior officer approached you snapped to attention.  If you were walking past a superior officer you had to snap a crisp salute a certain number of paces before passing.  You couldn’t wear the uniform in a bar or at a party.  Or do anything in it that would draw undo attention on yourself or reflect poorly on the service.  Such as attending some kind of demonstration while in uniform.  The only exception I know ever made to the uniform was for service women in Saudi Arabia.  Who must wear a head scarf so as not to offend the local Muslim population. 

There’s a reason why they are so strict with the uniform policy.  It’s the same reason they spend so much time drilling in formation.  It is to remove individuality.  And to increase unit adhesion.  Everyone is to look the same.  Think the same.  And act the same.  To maintain a high level of military discipline.  So that when you are stationed forward in a combat zone you function like a well-oiled machine.  Swiftly carrying out the orders of those above you.  Without questioning or hesitation.  Because in the chaos of battle it is only that military discipline that keeps people from panicking.  And following orders.  Which allows a unit the best chance of survival in combat.  And the best chance of successfully completing the mission.

Being in the military means you live by another set of rules.  Much of what you did in civilian life you simply can’t do in the military.  You can’t have visible tattoos.  You can’t have piercings and studs on your face.  You can’t have long hair.  Men can’t wear earrings.  Women can’t wear bright nail polish.  So many of the things that civilians take for granted just aren’t acceptable in the military.  So it is surprising that some women think they can pull a breast out of their uniform to nurse a baby in public (see Military Moms Breastfeeding in Uniform Stir Controversy by Lylah M. Alphonse posted 5/30/2012 on Shine from Yahoo!).

At a time when breastfeeding in public is already controversial, pictures of two military moms doing so while wearing their uniforms is sparking outrage…

The U.S. Air Force is supportive of our breastfeeding mothers and installations are continuously adapting to meet the needs of working mothers to offer suitable areas for their parenting needs,” Air Force spokesperson Captain Rose Richeson told Yahoo! Shine in an email. “The Air Force has standing instructions enabling mothers to feed their children, particularly when they transition back to work following maternity leave.” That includes allowing them to pump during the day, and providing private areas for breastfeeding in the Child Development Centers, she said, including the one at Fairchild Air Force Base…

According to Military Spouse Central, public displays of affection — even something as innocuous as holding hands — are not allowed while wearing a military uniform. Also forbidden while in uniform: eating, drinking, or talking on a cell phone while walking, carrying an umbrella that’s not black, and (in some cases) smoking or even chewing gum.

 Publicly breastfeeding definitely singles out these women from their fellow service members.  Their uniforms are not worn to regulations.  I doubt they could snap to attention if a superior officer approached.  And this is a form of a public demonstration.  To raise awareness of breastfeeding while in uniform.

What happens if these women are deployed to a combat zone?  They’re not going to take their babies into harm’s way.  Are they going to switch their babies to formula?  Are they going to pump and ship breast milk home?  Or are they going to get a special waiver and not have to serve in a forward zone?  If so they shouldn’t be in the military.  They should be civilians working for the military.  Who are exempt from combat.  So the military doesn’t have to deal with this kind of publicity with everything else on their plate.  Meeting expanding force requirements while enduring budget cuts.  And sending their people on multiple tours of duty in a forward combat zone.  Stressing them.  And the families they’ve left behind. 

These women may have already served in a combat zone.  They may have seen more combat than any of us will see.  And may deserve more gratitude than a nation can give them.  But there are some things that just don’t belong in the military.  From public displays of affection.  To a breast pulled out of a uniform to feed a baby.  However beautiful and natural that may be.  There’s a time and place for everything.  And breastfeeding in public belongs in the civilian world.  As long as the civilian laws permit it.  For when it comes down to it the business of the military is death and destruction.  And focusing attention on public breastfeeding while in uniform distracts the military from taking care of that business.

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