Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Parenting and Privilege

A good Air Force blogger friend, Mrs. H, brought this "current event" to my awareness tonight, and as a pregnant Airman, I feel obligated to weigh in.

Here's a quick background story:
  • Rebecca Edmonds, life-long Navy brat, decides she wants to serve and follows in the family footsteps.
  • Edmonds, a practicing Catholic, applies for a ROTC scholarship, signs contracts and accepts $92k in scholarship money, and attends the Catholic university Marquette.
  • Edmonds signed a contract and received no less than eight medical briefs reminding her that she needs to immediately notify her command of a change in her medical status.
  • Thirteen weeks before commissioning, Edmonds discovers she's pregnant.
  • Unmarried Edmonds decides to keep her baby and is separated from the process, and now has to repay the $92k.

Before I weigh in on this particular story, let me share something with my single moms out there - if you are a single parent, you cannot serve on active duty.  The Reserves and Guard are different.  I had a number of single mothers in my flight at BMT, but that is because we were mainly Guard and Reserve.  There are opportunities for single mothers to serve in the Air Force.  Granted, I'm assuming that if you're a single mother there may be opportunities to switch to active duty in the future if you marry, but that is something only your recruiter can confirm.  As a Reservist, you could potentially get an ART (Active Reserve Technician) position where you'd work a government job in a squadron as a full-time employee, so you could work in the Air Force full-time.  Bottom line, Edmonds could serve her country as an officer in the Air Force, although she wouldn't be able to do so on active duty as long as she's a single parent.

The article presents this story in a very skewed fashion, not surprisingly.  I think this is a case of a girl from a privileged family thinking the rules didn't apply to her.  I'm making the assumption that her family is fairly well-to-do, given her dad's career as a Naval officer (not to mention the fact that they've hired a military attorney to fight this dismissal).  Like I mentioned before, there were single mothers in my flight at BMT and they knew that active duty wasn't an option due to their marital status.  This is not shocking, and clearly Edmonds knew the same based on the information presented in the article where she kept hesitating to tell her leadership.  The Air Force has made a blanket policy that single mothers (and I'm assuming single parents with custodial rights in general) can't serve on active duty, period.  Regardless of whether or not you have a supportive family that's planning to drop everything if you deploy, it's a no-no.  There have been too many issues in the past with service members who've had family care plans fall apart, who then go AWOL or refuse to deploy.  I completely understand why a blanket policy helps cover our butts.

When a young adult accepts a ROTC scholarship or an appointment to the Air Force Academy, they make the commitment to repay that scholarship money by serving a specified number of years.  [Cadets at the Academy must be single, childfree, and under the age of 23.]  My brother had to make the same agreement when he went that route.  If you fail to fulfill the contractual agreement, you have to repay the money.  Edmonds clearly dismissed the seriousness of her contract and the eight medical briefs she received.  I firmly believe that if she was that strong in her faith that she didn't believe in birth control or abortion, she shouldn't have been having sex with her boyfriend.  I question her priorities and motivation.  If I were thirteen weeks away from finishing my degree and commissioning, I wouldn't be jeopardizing my future by having unprotected sex.  I would be chomping at the bit to get my butter bars and learn of my first duty station.

Edmonds chose to keep her baby, as a single mother.  She made a choice that negated another.  She chose motherhood over commissioning as an active duty officer.  She can't have it all, just like I can't have it all, nor could the single mothers in my flight.  While I waited in the DEP program, I took extreme precautions to not get pregnant, knowing that it would be a deal-breaker for me and my enlistment.  That's what responsible adults do.  

A friend of Mrs. H's put it best.  It boils down to the Air Force Core Value of Service Before Self.  Apparently Edmonds didn't realize that we take our Core Values pretty seriously.  If you can't live them, you can't lead by example.  I'm not even suggesting that she should've gotten an abortion here.  She chose sexual gratification over active duty service.  Clearly her military service wasn't her top priority and source of motivation.

[The opinions expressed within this post are my own, and do not reflect the position of the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, or the Department of Defense.  If you have questions about your own eligibility for service, please contact your nearest recruiter.]

12 comments:

Rebecca said...

I agree completely. While waiting in DEP for BMT, I have chosen to make sure that nothing jeopardizes my enlistement, which includes getting pregnant. If the Air Force cannot rely on an officer to be honest at at eight medical briefings, how can she be trusted on further matters?

She should follow the rules, pay the money back, raise her son, and deal with the consequences of her actions.

Erin said...

@Rebecca - I'm right there with you. My brother went to a private, Ivy League school, and you'd better believe he was expected to pay it all back if he didn't go through with his commission. This family seems to be so entitled, and that's what's laughable. Let's place blame where it's due - on the mother, who made an irresponsible decision to jeopardize her career and her education by having a child out of wedlock. I think this article definitely reflects a shift in our country where the stigma against unwed, teenage mothers has really withered away in some families and communities.

Delightfully Awkward Brittany said...

Couldn't agree more. Sometimes things happen- but you deal with the consequences and move on. You don't sit there & whine about how unfair it all is when you *knew* the rules beforehand. A similar situation came about a few years ago with a female AD soldier, she went AWOL claiming her Army CoC wanted her to abandon her child/put him up for adoption so she could serve her deployment and of course the uninformed media jumped all over it without having a clue about how such things really work.

Mel said...

I commend her for keeping the child and wanting to be a mother while pursuing her dreams. I do think she royally screwed up by keeping it a secret hoping she would be able to join anyway (therefore ruining any career she could have had with the military.)

These rules exist for a reason, which I understand. What I don't understand is why make a blanket rule about single parents and AD, but not make the same rule about two parents who serve AD. There are the exact same risks regarding deployment and child care or even being stationed apart from one-another and yet that rule doesn't exist (as far as I know.)

Just an interesting observation. :)

Spike said...

Erin-

I read that story as well. I think this woman has a sense of entitlement , perhaps by virtue of her upbringing...? She can't change the rules to fit nicely into her situation and personal desires.

In any case, one thing I read in the article was this: "Edmonds said no one ever brought the issue up during her subsequent counseling sessions while she was enrolled at Marquette." This statement referred to her responsibility to disclose any change in her medical condition. She failed to do so, knowing the repercussions.

I commend her for keeping her child and for her determination to serve. In her case, she can't do both. I believe "Service Before Self" doesn't trump a baby's life. However, she knew the rules and failed to abide by them. I think she definitely has an integrity issue. She failed in the honesty department...the AF is better off without her as an officer.

Dee Servance said...

Women like her make me so mad. She knew the rules and she should have followed them. Instead her sense of entitlement made her believe she could do whatever she pleased and still join the military. It doesn't work that way. I could see if she had taken precautions and still managed to get pregnant (I have a friend that happened to). But this is different. She's supposed to be an adult, and adults have to make adult decisions like abstaining from sex if they're so strong in their spiritual beliefs that they won't use birth control. Serves her right for thinking she could cheat the system.

Erin said...

@Dee - I totally agree. Clearly, her faith wasn't *that* strong...

Sabine Oh. said...

Question, hoping you may be able to she'd some light on this topic for me... My husband was told that while he is trying to enlist he better not get me pregnant (not sure how to word that lightly lol) because they wouldn't let him in the service if he did. He's clearly not single and neither am I so why exactly would that stop his chances for active duty?

Sabine Oh. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sabine Oh. said...

Or would him going to BMT and tech make me a "temporary single parent?"

Erin said...

@Sabine Oh - I'm not 100% sure on how that works, but you're better safe than sorry. What did his recruiter say? Worse case scenario, they won't let him go AD (just ANG or RES) because you two are dual military. What did his recruiter say?

Heather Markley said...

You can serve AD AF as a single parent. I am and have been doing so since June 2013 when my son was born. I've been AD since I joined the AF in 2009. You cannot JOIN the AF as a single parent. You have to transfer guardianship for BMT and tech school