Peace Time: March 20, 2003


As hundreds of thousands of American troops were sent overseas for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the problem of "what to do with the kids" became an issue again. As was discovered during the 1991 Gulf War, the post Vietnam army is not only all-volunteer, but mostly married. Well, about half the troops are married. Not only that, but ten percent of the troops are married to someone else in the service (six percent of male troops, and 42 of female troops). But eight percent of the troops are single parents, almost all of them female. There are about 200,000 women in the armed forces, about fifteen percent of the total (versus eleven percent in 1991). Women also can hold just about any job (the major exceptions being submarine crews and ground combat.) Women are shipped overseas about as frequently as the men, and this caused a lot of problems in 1991 when single mothers, or both parents when both were in the service, got shipped overseas at the same time. To solve that problem, the military now insists that military parents work out child care arrangements ahead of time in anticipation of getting sent overseas. Not doing so has adverse career impacts. The heat has come down on commanders as well. Those who have subordinates that have not found a place for the kids to live when the parents are overseas, is also going to suffer career damage. Likewise with another child-related problem; pregnant sailors. There is not supposed to be any sex on warships. Any female sailor who is pregnant aboard a ship, gets sent back to a shore base and light duty until the baby arrives. But if the pregnancy obviously took place at sea (most ship captains can do simple math), the sailors career is in danger (although you cannot be discharged just for getting pregnant.) Ship commanders take heat for this as well, but have found that the growing number of female chief petty officers are able to control the female sailors likely to get pregnant. 


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