OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- In 1948, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was passed allowing women in military service to receive the same pay and benefits given to men, but it did not protect women who wanted to be mothers.
The act permitted the military to involuntarily discharge women who became pregnant. In the seven decades since, service women’s rights have improved immensely.
Some of the more recent changes include doubling maternity leave from six weeks to twelve, doubling the time before a physical training test, temporary duty assignment or deployment from six months to a year, and adding lactation rooms to work centers. Also growing are the support groups aimed at empowering women to educate and guide each other.
Offutt is home to at least three military moms actively pursuing improvements. Among their accomplishments are the Facebook group, Offutt Breastfeeding & Pumping Support Group, a chapter of Mom2Mom Global and the installation of a lactation pod.
Staff Sgt. Destinie White, 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of inspection, saw the need for a safe place for moms to ask questions and share stories about good and bad experiences. She established a closed Facebook group, so that information shared and posted stays within the group.
“I thought something was needed for those moms directly affiliated with Offutt who may be cautious when sharing with others who may not understand their military background,” White said.
As of today, the “Offutt Breastfeeding & Pumping Support Group” has 104 members including active-duty military, civilians, working military spouses and Stay at Home moms associated with the Team Offutt community.
Staff Sgt. Trisha Feeney, 20th Intelligence Squadron, recently established an Offutt chapter of Mom2Mom global, an international, non-profit organization, dedicated to educating and advocating for military breastfeeding moms.
Feeney also recognized the need for a lactation room within her unit and was able to get funding through the 363rd Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Group at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. The room has been up and running since September.
“It makes me really happy and proud to be able to provide a private, clean space where mothers can do what they need to, to provide their babies with breastmilk,” Feeney said. “It is heartwarming to know that I built something within the squadron that people need that will hopefully last for years to come.”
Similar to Feeney, Staff Sgt. Caitlin Milbourn, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Detachment 1, NCO in charge of commander support staff, while working for the 55th Maintenance Group, realized there was a need for a pumping facility in the Bennie L. Davis Maintenance Facility. She had come across several women who were trying daily to find a private sanitary place and she discovered several pregnant women who would eventually require the same private, clean area.
With no available usable space, she presented the option for the purchase of a portable pod, which was approved. Together, these women aim to improve the livelihood of countless mothers and their feats have not gone unnoticed.