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The US Army is expanding the benefits it offers soldiers — both birth and non-birth parents — around pregnancy, parenthood and the postpartum period.
The directive – driven in part by the grassroots efforts of some soldiers – is a rewriting of policies for the branch, which includes more than 400,000 parents across the force.
The directive was a mix of new policies and updates to existing rules.
“We recruit Soldiers, but we retain Families,” Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army, said in a statement. “Winning the war for talent means making sure our best and brightest people don’t have to choose between service and family.”
One of the rules is a provision that soldiers who give birth will be excused for a year from any continuous duty events longer than one normal duty day, including deployment and field training.
That 365-day deferment also applies to certain other non-birth parents, single soldiers and soldiers undergoing fertility treatment. One Army member of a dual-military couple that adopts or has a long-term placement of a child is also eligible for the deferment.
People who are fertility treatments will also be exempt from a permanent change of station for up to 365 days.
Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers will be granted 12 paid training days off after a birth, which ends up being between three to six months off for the part-time troops that train a few days per month, according to Military.com.
The Army is also trying to make it easier for soldiers who are breastfeeding. Commanders will be required to give soldiers who are breastfeeding 30-minute lactation breaks at least every two to three hours. Soldiers will be able to breastfeed or express milk in a private, locking room other than a restroom, with accommodations including a place to sit and a refrigerator to store milk.
“This directive seeks to normalize parenthood & extend benefits & accommodations to all new parents: dual/single military, single moms & dads,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a tweet. “Our Army is 404,000 parents strong & growing!”
The Army also made changes to physical fitness requirements for soldiers who recently gave birth.
The Air Force, Navy and National Guard Bureau have yet to publish new policies, Military.com reported.