WASHINGTON — Just before the ceremony when she assumed command of a U.S. Army Reserve company in 2012, then-Capt. Kelly Bell felt nauseated. Concerned, her fellow Soldiers checked on her.
Bell explained that she just had morning sickness, after recently learning she had become pregnant with her first daughter. She wanted to attend the Army’s pre-command course but under the Army regulations at the time, pregnant Soldiers could not attend training classes.
“My application kept getting denied because I was pregnant even though it was 100% classroom settings,” said Bell, now a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. “I had a temporary profile, and I couldn’t go to the class. So, I had to wait until after she was born.”
Bell, the 7203rd Medical Support Unit commander in Hobart, Indiana, has known pregnant Soldiers who have been facing challenging situations in the Army since she had her daughter nine years ago.
So, in February 2021 Bell joined together with other Soldier-parents to submit a white paper from the field that identified five obstacles that pregnant and postpartum Soldiers face in the Army. That white paper inspired a working group at the Army Headquarters, which has been comprehensively reviewing the Army’s pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood policies over the last year.
The result of that effort is the new Parenthood, Pregnancy and Postpartum Army Directive which has updated regulations for parents and families into the 12 policy changes included in the omnibus directive.
The policies will not only help new Soldier-moms transition back to duty but help all Army parents better care for military children and expand their families while advancing their military careers.
“We recruit Soldiers, but we retain families,” said the Army’s Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville. “Winning the war for talent means making sure our best and brightest people don’t have to choose between service and family.”
Army Secretary Christine E. Wormuth approved the initiatives on April 19 and released the directive, which will strive to alleviate many of the administrative burdens Army parents face, today.
The Army working group that built the proposal included members of the Army Manpower and Reserve Affairs directorate, Army Training and Doctrine Command, the Army Office of the Surgeon General, and Army G-1.
To help inform the changes, Amy Kramer, lead author for the directive and Maj. Sam Winkler, a contributor to the directive, incorporated feedback from the various social media parent based groups, such as “The Army Mom Life,” and from leaders throughout the Army. Army leaders have supported the sweeping changes to prioritize people throughout the directive writing process, Kramer said.