What DoD’s New Family-Friendly Policies Mean For The Future Of The Military

Aiden Robillard smiles in the arms of his father, Staff Sgt. Tim Robillard, Jan. 12, 2014.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. John Bainter

When you think of recent major social changes in the military, the reforms that spring to mind are most likely gay people being able to openly serve and women being admitted to combat arms units. Those are certainly huge changes — revolutionary in scope — that have accordingly garnered exhaustive coverage by media outlets. But another revolutionary (or evolutionary, depending on how you look at it) change that the Department of Defense is pushing for is the goal to make itself, in the words of Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson, “the nation’s most progressive employer.”

But what does that even mean? In an interview with National Public Radio this week, Carson stated that it means giving service members the option to freeze their sperm and eggs.

“The idea really came from talking to women in the force, just about their experiences, how we could make life better for them,” Carson said. “There was a culture of women who say upon turning 30, their mentors would come to them and say, you should go freeze your eggs; pay for it yourself because this is something that will be valuable to you in 10, 12 years.”

So the military paying for women to freeze their eggs actually has a twofold intended effect: It simultaneously frees up servicewomen to delay pregnancy past prime warfighting age while also helping to retain them in service. Women are less likely to move to the civilian world if parenthood is still a viable option down the line.

The program’s offer to subsidize the freezing sperm and eggs also has an appeal as an insurance policy of sorts. As Tessa Poppe wrote for Task & Purpose back in 2014, “between 2000 and 2013, almost 2,000 service members received debilitating injuries to their genital regions, and more than 307,000 troops experienced some type of head injury, which can impact sexual function and drive.”

Related: The military could soon face increased recruiting challenges »

The Long War might be better known for its connection to post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, but genitourinary injuries and the secondary effects of head injuries, are also a huge problem. Hopefully, the DoD’s program will go a ways in remedying it.

The program is just one element of a wider push to make the military a more competitive and family-friendly employer. Current Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced last month that the Pentagon will be offering 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and up to two weeks paternity leave for parents. He also plans to expand childcare center hours and install “mother’s rooms” at certain military facilities for breastfeeding and pumping.

These changes might seem deceptively modest in scope, but they have potentially huge ramifications for quality of life issues for service members. Not only does it bring the Pentagon closer to the expectations and standards of many civilian employers, it also points toward the direction that the Pentagon will be moving in the future: treating service members as employers and private corporations as rivals in talent acquisition. Pretty revolutionary if you ask me.

This year marks the 42nd anniversary of the all-volunteer force. And while Carter is absolutely correct in understanding that the health of a volunteer military is predicated upon recruiting and retaining top-notch talent, the cries of “brain drain” that have been echoing through op-ed pages over the past half decade tend to be either overblown or misdiagnoses. Two interrelated points are helpful to consider here. The first is that the private sector and military service have different ends, or telos, and are animated by distinct logics. People who are great at, say, developing Facebook, might not necessarily make good soldiers. There isn’t just a giant hunk of undifferentiated “talent” out there that the Pentagon is competing with private companies to acquire. There are different kinds of intelligences, different skill sets, and a variety of aptitudes. Making the military more like a startup doesn’t guarantee that the military will get the people it needs to the do the job it does.

The second point to consider is that, despite the differences, there still remains a fairly porous border between the military and the private sector. If the Pentagon needs the smartest people in Silicon Valley developing technologies and strategies, it can have them. In fact, it’s already purusing them, to the consternation of the traditional defense industry giants.

That being said, extended maternity and paternity leave, and a more “family-friendly” force in generally is an unalloyed good thing. It should be a baseline requirement for any employer, and it’s the right thing for the Pentagon to be leading the way on.

(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.

The troops were part of a convoy in Kandahar province that came under attack by a member of the Afghan Civil Order Police, a spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support said on Monday.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

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A former Army soldier was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday for stealing weapons from Fort Bliss, along with other charges.

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(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.

Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

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