Tuesday, December 22, 2009

General Softens Pregnancy Ban

Last week I bookmarked a story from MSNBC that reported the Army general of U.S. forces in northern Iraq threatened to court-martial and jail personnel who became pregnant or impregnates another service member, including married couples assigned to the same unit.

I was too busy to pursue the story, expecting an outcry from my sisters in journalism. Wrong. Not much of a peep out of them.

This man's army is not like the one my father, uncles and cousins served. They were subjected to explicit training films on the ravages of venereal disease. Until this order by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, the gender-integrated military debate focused on the "Don't Tell" policy involving gay and lesbian personnel.

The general's orders Nov. 4 was first reported by the military newspaper Stars & Stripes and quoted Col. David S. Thompson, the inspector general for all soldiers in Iraq, that the edict was legal and no cases had been filed. He said it was the first time he could recall pregnancy being prohibited.

Several days after the original Stars & Stripes article, four female and three male soldiers were disciplined but not court-martialed for violating Cucolo's orders.

The four female soldiers were given letters of reprimand that will not be in their permanent military file, Cucolo told the Stars and Stripes military newspaper late Monday. So were two of the male soldiers. The third male soldier, who is married and impregnated a subordinate, was charged with fraternization and given a permanent letter of reprimand, Cucolo said.

One of the female soldiers declined to say who impregnated her and the unit “let it drop,” Cucolo told Stars and Stripes, adding that he had no plans to further investigate paternity. “I’m in a war zone,” he said. “I don’t have time for that.”

Cucolo commands some 22,000 soldiers, and nearly 1,700 are female.

“I can’t tell you how valuable my female soldiers are,” Cucolo said. “They fly helicopters. They run satellites. They’re mechanics. They’re medics. Some of the best intelligence analysts I have happen to be female.”

“The message to my female soldiers is that I need you for the duration,” Cucolo said. “Please think before you act.”

I appreciate Cucolo's problem of personnel attrition but his solution was rather Draconian. To order people in their late teens and early twenties to think before they act in war time conditions is the same as placing a wad of bubble gum to plug a leak in a dam.

One thing you can say about our military is that historically they are a virile lot. During World War II the Brits accused our G.I.'s of thinking between their legs rather than their brains. In postwar Japan, our troops impregnated thousands of natives in which their offspring were ostracized.

Somewhere in Gen. Cucolo's chain of command must be a quartermaster who can procure condoms for his personnel.

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