Early last week over at the HomeBlog, we were discussing ADM Harvey’s manning data call. In the comments to his post at his CFFCBlog, there was a quote about the Navy’s failure to fill the gaps in the manning document resulting from the impact of IA’s – that brought to my nogg’n a very touchy subject. At the same time, an article in NavyTimes about that touchy subject was on my desk. From the NavyTimes article most of you probably read last week,

… pregnancy in the ranks is rising—especially among those in deploying units. That’s because the service does track—as a group—female sailors who have been sent to shore duty after their 20th week of pregnancy or those on an “operational deferment”—the guaranteed time the Navy gives women while they recover from childbirth.

These women are put on shore duty during their 12 months of deferment, then return to sea duty.

The Navy increased this deferment time in June 2007 from four to 12 months. As a result, the number of women leaving deploying units to have children has increased steadily from 1,770 in June 2006 to 3,125 as of Aug. 1. Junior enlisted women make up the bulk of those redirected to shore duty. Sailors in grades E-3 through E-5 account for 2,852 of the 3,125.

The tie in to the comments from CFFCBlog is a well described example of complete professional malpractice where almost eight years into the war we still put Commanding Officers on the spot because Big Navy DOES NOT have a system to,

Reflect clearly in manning documents (and in readiness reports) Sailors who are on IA assignment and therefore unable to fill critical mission roles within the parent unit.

Likewise, we do not adequately address pregnancy.

Early on in the article, this brought a chuckle.

Pregnancy in the Navy is on the rise—but exactly how much isn’t exactly clear. That’s because the Navy says it doesn’t have the means to track exact pregnancy statistics servicewide.

Of course it doesn’t – institutionally we are terrified of even discussing it. One of the greatest secrets held at the Strike Group Commander level is the pregnancy rate. Oh, and don’t dare ask how many of the mothers-to-be are single.

We also tell little lies to ourselves and our Sailors,

‘The Navy strongly believes that having children and a career in the Navy don’t have to be at odds,” she said.

Lack of clear conversation.

Anyone who has children knows that having them, except for very rare cases, is at odds with a fully competitive career for women. You can make it work, but it is very hard and requires a great partner that is also willing to make sacrifices. That usually requires a stay at home Dad or that you spend almost all your career on shore duty. If you are a single mother, then you can double the challenge as add a needle-gun to the inside of your skull as you try to make it work. Otherwise, if you don’t have that super-partner and are a warfare qualified officer executing a Line Officer career that taxpayer expects you to – someone else is raising your kids for you. Fact.

Facts prove that you cannot do both well (see Jack Welsh) unless you are the outlier exception. This is especially true if you want to have more than one child and/or are a single parent. Being a single mother in the Navy is not like being a single mother at Bank of America.

Fair? Life isn’t fair …. but the most valuable and precious things you will ever have in what little time you have on this earth are your children. They are also the most important thing you can invest your time in with your partner. Full stop.

This is not an anti-woman thing; this is about mature people talking bluntly with each other. Some of the best leaders on the Enlisted side of the house I have known have been female. Here, I think, is one.

A senior enlisted woman from the destroyer Ross said her ship was having an epidemic of pregnancies in the crew, with 15 women becoming pregnant in the past year among a female population that averaged 36 over the same period of time.

Another said that she’s seen too many women elect to get pregnant to avoid making deployments of six months or longer—swapping that for an 18- to 21-year commitment to raise a child. Another said she still sees too many young male sailors eyeing newly reporting female sailors as targets of opportunity more than shipmates. More counseling in responsible behavior, she said, was needed immediately after these young sailors get to their command.

Have a few of them holding “high demand, low density” NECC and/or in supervisory positions – and you are in a pickle.

There is also a background story with this that isn’t talked about much. A tragedy I have seen too often.

A young woman joins the Navy at 18. Gets pregnant by her 19th birthday and MILPERSMAN’s her way out following birth. She then winds up back with her parents with a child by age 20 having done nothing for 2 years for herself professionally – or for the taxpayer. She is on her own because she won’t identify the father – he is a married E5 with two kids, etc.

How do you address that? It is a tough problem that requires tough, mature leadership. We don’t address it enough with our Sailors, I think. I always get a kick (not in a happy way) out of the expression on the face of that E4 when I tell him how much money we are going to take out of his paycheck for the next 18 years. Then he tells me another female E2 is pregnant by him …. and I tell him the new number.

People are mammals. You need to find a way to get the higher brain functions to override the lower brain functions – then you might get some success.

Oh, before I leave – let me put a wobble on this mindless spin.

“We see a decline in pregnancy rates on ships where there is a strong presence of females in leadership roles at the command,” she (Stephanie Miller, head of women’s policy for Chief of Naval Personnel ) said. “It’s only been 15 years or so since the combat exclusion was lifted, and it’s taken time to grow these women.”

Bravo Sierra on the time issue. Many parts of the Navy have had women fully integrated from day one. Heck, as a LTJG, the best Senior Chief I had the honor to serve with was a female – and she was more of a mean old goat than her Master Chief husband. She was also worth her substantial weight in gold. (BTW, some of you who deployed with the USS EISENHOWER on her first girl-boy-girl-boy cruise know who I am talking about)

That, Stephanie, is a bogus excuse, and I hope that comment doesn’t represent the depth of knowledge that informs the advice you provide to the CNO. You are right about the leadership – but like all leadership, you have to grow the right ones with the right ideas – like that Senior Chief I mentioned in the early 90s (i.e. a female senior leader almost 20 years ago, ahem). The Oprahesque stuff we are putting out there does not work in the Fleet except for those hot-house flowers who spend their career on shore duty.

Anyway, women having children will, thank goodness, always be with us. If Big Navy wants to have a high percentage of females in its ranks, it needs to find a better way of dealing with it while being fair to all her Sailors – male and female – with and without children.

Let me offer some help as a foundation to begin the discussion; the servicemembers need to find ways to adjust to the requirements of the armed service, not the other way around.

Crossposted here from the HomeBlog by popular acclimation.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy

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  • Total

    the servicemembers need to find ways to adjust to the requirements of the armed service, not the other way around.

    Uh, piffle. The service and the servicemembers need to find the best way to deal with the situation. Sometimes that may mean the service adjusting, sometimes that may mean the servicemember adjusting.

  • Byron

    If I sign a contract to buy a car on time, and agree to make payments on it, then my wiggle room to defer or not make payments is zero. I might get away with a bit of a late payment, so long as I pay a late charge. If I don’t make the payments, my car get’s repo’d.

    Now tell me what’s the difference between that and service members who can’t keep their damn pant’s zipped up and the contract they signed and the conditions explained to them?


  • Total,
    Just starting the conversation from one end. The solution is somewhere in the middle.

  • How about:
    (1) Mandatory DNA samples from all hands.
    (2) Mandatory determination of Paternity determined from DNA sample.
    (3) If conception occured while parents served together at duty station/on board ship, and father does not step up to assume financial responsibility for child, father is immediately dismissed from Service. Veterans Benefits are severely cropped.
    (4) Mother can elect to remain in Service, or opt out after taking Leave/expiration. Promotional opportunities, limited as result of pregnancy.

    Hmmmm? Pay through the nose for play’n round, on duty.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “father is immediately dismissed from Service. Veterans Benefits are severely cropped.”

    “father is immediately dismissed from Service. Veterans Benefits are severely cropped.”

    How can you possibly justify that blatant and discriminatory double standard when it takes (at least) two to tango?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    *burma shave*

    Meant to say:

    “father is immediately dismissed from Service. Veterans Benefits are severely cropped.”

    “Mother can elect to remain in Service”

    How can you possibly justify that blatant and discriminatory double standard when it takes (at least) two to tango?

  • @URR:
    Just tryin to make it a pay-fer-play that hits both with ramifications unpaletable enough…not to play. in the case of father, he either pays money for child, or loses income. in the case of mother, she is already paying in a major way raising a child, but lack of promotional opportunities means that she’ll not be able to benefit monetarily (while still allowing some for child).

    My real honest take is immediate dismissal for both. No benefits afterward. Not “PC”, though I could care less about that. a bit Draconian for most, but I like it.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Gotcha. A very tricky biological issue. A road full of hazards. Know many who were willful “single moms” who wanted the “life’s experience” of a child. Officers included. Makes the whole picture quite a bit different.

    Sal’s original premise is that the armed services (Navy included) cannot bend to what would seem a reasonable degree as a civilian employer would. They are not civilians, and have no business mimicking the “best employer” stuff to the detriment of readiness and combat efficiency.

  • GunDog15

    Was at Bupers back in the day when we first started putting women on surface combatants. Special Programs section had our hands full with the pregnancy issue, especially when the woman in question held 1 of 2 critical NECs onboard. The solution at the time was the senior female leadership concept. Effectiveness varied from command to command. We did our “detailer-best” to put a good face on the job we were doing although the pregnancy numbers never did stack up to well. Eventually I went back to the fleet and within a year onboard, I saw nearly half the enlisted females depart for pregnancy. The crowning incident happened when I walked into my stateroom one night to find two officers of the opposite sex having “inappropriate relations” in the bottom bunk. Immediately following this discovery, I had “priceless” conversation with the CO and XO and the two offending officers were quickly whisked away from the ship within hours.

    Poetic justice?