Thursday, December 24, 2009

No Babies And That's An Order

There has been a lot of news about the order concerning women military members getting pregnant, and military men impregnating them, while serving in Iraq. So far a few women and men have been punished.

Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, who commands Multi-National Division — North, said he instituted the ban when he took over in early November to prevent the loss of valuable female soldiers, since troops who become pregnant are sent home.

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

What the general has succeeded in doing is raise the awareness of this issue, but he has also tied his hands when it comes to punishing those who violate the order.

Essentially, a woman assigned to the war zone who becomes pregnant will receive a letter of reprimand and nothing more. Why? Because the next step up is non-judicial punishment administered under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The use of non-judicial punishment allows a commander some leeway in prosecuting someone who violates the UCMJ, in this case, something along the lines of failure to obey a lawful order. A military member can lose pay, be demoted to a lower rank, be assigned extra duties, etc., but still remain assigned to their unit and perform their primary duties. It gives the punished person an opportunity to redeem themselves to some extent and the unit still has that member on board.

The catch is the when a military member is offered Article 15 punishment, they have the option refuse it and be court-martialed instead. Since the general stated he will not court-martial anyone for this, then the women who become pregnant can quite likely bank on getting nothing more than a letter of reprimand which will have little effect on their careers. That doesn't mean other circumstances can't prevail. Adultery is an offense under the UCMJ. It's a rarely prosecuted offense, but that is a possibility in cases where adultery is involved. One article mentions a male non-commissioned officer was charged with fraternization and given a letter of reprimand. I don't know about that. Fraternization is an offense committed by an officer fraternizing with an enlisted member. But Article 134 of the UCMJ can be used to prosecute anything that leads to the prejudice of good order and discipline.

On the bright side the general has, whether purposely or not, created a lot of publicity which will hopefully lead to some meaningful dialogue to address the issue women military members who voluntarily become pregnant while serving in a war zone and thus make themselves unavailable for duty in that zone.

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