Current Army Policy Related to Soldier Pregnancy and Associated Topics

By Remi Halliburton, Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office

Navigating life’s milestones as a Soldier can be a daunting experience, especially for those starting or expanding their family. Soldiers face a plethora of issues when returning to work after childbirth in order to balance providing care and nutrition for their children while answering to the demands and standards of their job. In a shift to recognize the modern Army family, Army Directive 2022-06 adopts new changes surrounding pregnancy uniform policies, exemptions to body composition and physical fitness testing, professional military education, lactation policies, family care plans, and convalescent leave.

Uniforms and Customs: While pregnant and for 365 days after the conclusion of pregnancy, commanders and supervisors may not require Soldiers to wear the Army Service Uniform or Army Green Service Uniform. These Soldiers can mix and match the maternity and non-maternity permethrin-free Army Combat Uniform and Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform. Soldiers with a soft shoe profile must wear an athletic shoe with the ACU or IHWCU. Pregnant Soldiers must wear the physical fitness uniform until it becomes restrictive, at which point civilian attire is authorized. Pregnant Soldiers never have to purchase larger physical fitness uniforms.

Child Development Centers may be designated as No-Hat, No-Salute areas, while in non-designated areas salutes are not required due to impracticability when either person is carrying children or articles with both hands.

Postpartum Body Composition and Physical Fitness Testing: It is mandatory that all pregnant and postpartum Soldiers enroll in the Pregnancy Postpartum Physical Training program. While in the P3T program during pregnancy, and for 180 days after the conclusion of pregnancy, Soldiers are exempt from regular unit physical readiness training requirements, including timed distance runs and distance ruck marches. For 365 days after the conclusion of pregnancy or perinatal loss, Soldiers will not be enrolled in the Army Body Composition Program. While pregnant and for 365 days after the conclusion of pregnancy, Soldiers do not have to take a record physical fitness test but should be prepared to take a record physical fitness test upon their return.

Operational and Training Deferment: In order to guarantee at least one parent is home with the child, Soldiers are exempt for 365 days from continuous duty events longer than one duty day or shift after giving birth, undergoing fertility treatment, adoption, and long-term foster placement. These events include, but are not limited to, deployment, mobilization, field training, Combat Training Center Program Rotations, Collection Training Events away from home station, pre-mobilization training, unit training assembly away from home station, and temporary duty.

Professional Military Education: While pregnant or postpartum, commissioned officers and warrant officers may attend Professional Military Education courses and NCOs may attend the Sergeants Major Academy. These commissioned officers, warrant officers, and NCOs may use their last record physical fitness test and height and weight scores. However, enlisted NCOs may not participate in leadership courses while pregnant but can attend while postpartum.

Lactation Policies: Commanders must provide lactating Soldiers with a private space other than a restroom to sit down that includes a flat surface to place a breast pump, electrical outlet, refrigerator to store expressed milk, and access to a safe water source within a reasonable distance. Lactating Soldiers may take lactation breaks for at least 30 minutes every 2-3 hours. Lactating Soldiers are eligible for field training and mobility exercises after completing the postpartum deployment deferment period. However, where proper lactation accommodations cannot be provided, lactating Soldiers remain exempt for 24 months from CTC rotations, deployments, and training events.

Family Care Plans: To allow Soldiers to arrange childcare, commanders should provide three weeks' notice for duty requirements outside of normal duty hours or significant changes to normal duty hours. Commanders must provide six weeks’ notice in writing before a Soldier is required to activate the long-term guardianship provisions of their Family Care Plan. This includes duty for routine TDY, school attendance, multi-day exercises, or extended periods of absence and travel. The six-week notification requirement does not include operations in response to a national emergency, activation of forces preparing to deploy, Soldiers assigned to an immediate or crisis response force, and Soldiers in rapid deploying units.

Convalescent Leave: Soldiers physically and emotionally recovering after a birth event, miscarriage, still birth, or pregnancy termination will be provided with non-chargeable convalescent leave to be authorized by the Soldier’s unit commander. Soldiers whose spouse experiences a miscarriage or stillbirth will also be granted convalescent leave to be used in one increment for emotional recovery and Family wellness.

Finding the balance between career and family is certainly more attainable with Army Directive 2022-06. Utilizing evidence-based health and wellness research, this directive provides guidance to enhance Soldiers’ quality of life, flexibility, readiness, ability to perform critical assignments, and career advancement all while growing their families. It is imperative that leaders learn and incorporate these changes into their organizations while pregnant and postpartum Soldiers and their spouses assert their rights to these mandates.

If you have any further questions on this topic and want to speak with an attorney, please schedule an appointment with the Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office by either calling (915) 568-7141 during office hours or emailing anytime.