Air Force removes administrative burden, allows pregnant, postpartum women to attend PME

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Lt. Col. Hallie Herrera salutes during her change of command ceremony at Fort George G. Meade, Md., June 16, 2020. Hererra, who was eight months pregnant at the time, took command of the 22nd Intelligence Squadron. (Air Force photograph by Felix Herrera)
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Pregnant and postpartum members may now attend professional military education without an exception to policy, and are also exempt from the requirement to have a passing fitness assessment prior to attending.

Previous policy prevented pregnant women and women within their one-year postpartum deferment period from attending PME, creating an unintended barrier to their developmental milestones.

“Empowering women to make a decision about the right time to attend PME, especially during or after pregnancy, is the right thing to do,” said Gwendolyn DeFilippi, assistant deputy director of Air Force manpower, personnel and services and strategic director of the Department of the Air Force Barrier Analysis Working Group. “These type of policy changes provide women flexibility to balance family planning and career progression; they help level the playing field. We’re committed to improving diversity, inclusion and belonging across the Department of the Air Force, and sometimes it’s hard to know what to do. Thanks to the Women’s Initiative Team and the work of the Diversity Task Force, we are able to implement meaningful changes that will help retain women in our ranks.”

This change, in collaboration with Col. Ricky Mills, Squadron Officer School commandant at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., was introduced through the Women’s Initiative Team. The WIT, which is one of six teams in the DAFBAWG, was specifically created to address barriers for women in the Department of the Air Force and has championed numerous policy changes to benefit women.

“We found some people wanted to attend PME during pregnancy, but were facing obstacles to attend,” said Maj. Alea Nadeem, Women’s Initiatives Team chief. “The WIT advocated for pregnant women to work directly with their primary care manager or obstetrician to empower them to make a well-informed decision. We keep an ear to the ground and listen to what our teammates are saying. Thanks to the Air and Space Professionals who came forward and identified this as a barrier, and also for the support of Col. Mills and his team who assisted the WIT in making this important change.”

Air Force Instruction 23-2670, Total Force Development, outlines the exemption for pregnant and postpartum members. Routine obstetric care may not be available at the PME location, so members should work with their primary care manager or obstetrician to obtain medical clearance and any required paperwork.

Whether or not a member attends PME while pregnant or within the one-year postpartum period is left up to the individual and her medical team. For those who elect to attend PME while pregnant or within their postpartum period, there is no expectation to perform a physical event or activity with which they are uncomfortable.

For more information, members should contact their chains of command or refer to AFI 36-2670, Total Force Development.

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