My Family!!

My Family!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Changing the World One Policy at a Time!

As I have mentioned numerous times, I am in the Ohio Army National Guard. I joined a little over 2 years ago while Foster was deployed. He inspired me. He really enjoyed his experience, his college was paid for, and he was thriving in the military. It really motivated me and made me want to put on the uniform also. I figured the perfect time for me to join is while he was deployed because it would help make the time pass faster, and would make me keep busy and keep my mind off of the fact that he was putting himself in harms way.

I thought for sure it was meant to be. I went into the recruiting office and specifically told them what I wanted to do and what bonuses I wanted. I wanted my $20,ooo bonus, I wanted them to pay for my school, pay off my student loans I had already accrued, and I wanted to get the kicker for the GI Bill. I specifically wanted to be a "combat medic", and was really disappointed when I saw "Health Care Specialist" as the explanation of the job. However, after further explanation from the recruiter, they have to use Health Care Specialist for two reasons. One, women cannot hold combat related jobs, and two, it sounded more appealing, aka, it tricked people into picking it. I breezed through the ASVAB, which is the aptitude test to enter, and came out with a score of a 97 which is extremely high. I made it through my physical with advice to lose a few pounds to make basic training easier. I told my recruiter I NEEDED to leave by May 21st in order to return home in time to prepare for Foster's return from Iraq. Most of my friends who had recently joined were not given ship dates until July, however, both my recruiter and I were SHOCKED when the lottery picked a ship date of May 20th. He had never seen anyone literally pick their ship date. I felt it was meant to be.

I worked really hard to get into shape. I diligently ran every day, preparing myself for the 2 mile run in the PT test. I practiced push-ups and sit-ups to get ready for those. I wanted to succeed and even excel in the Army.

I shipped out on May 20th for basic training and endured a grueling 60 days of getting yelled at, "smoked", and writing letters in order to communicate with my boyfriend in the "sandbox". I then went to AIT in San Antonio, TX. It was just as hard, if not worse than initial basic training, but at least I was able to have my cell phone which meant Foster could call me whenever he had a moment. It was amazing to hear his voice again and to have his encouragement to do my best and achieve my goals. If you remember, I told the story of how I achieved the distinguished honor grad, and received my first Army medal while I was still in training.

When I got home from training, I was so motivated to join my unit and take it by storm. I just knew they would be proud of me for my accomplishments in training, be a great unit, and I would learn and teach as much as I could. I came back in the best shape of my life with a tremendous amount of confidence, and I expected that the National Guard would help me maintain this. I was expecting to get the amazing experience out of the guard as Foster had for almost 10 years. Boy was I in for a surprise.

Not only did my command not congratulate me on my accomplishments in training, they didn't even acknowledge them. I came back from training with pneumonia and was made to take a PT before they would promote me, even though I had just taken one and excelled in it the month prior. Unfortunately, I was unaware that I could have taken a pass due to the pneumonia, and tried to run the test but miserably failed. I couldn't breathe. Thanks to this, I was unable to get a promotion. Then there was a huge change of command and most of the personnel were switched out which changed the whole morale of the unit. Our new command was not well liked, so the motivation of the other soldiers was non-existent. I would go to drill on the weekend and instead of doing cool Army training, it seemed like everyone was just sitting around gossiping and texting on their phones. I became so frustrated with the entire scene. I should have gone active duty.

Then our unit got rumors of a deployment. We were told we would be leaving in April for Iraq. The morale started to change, and we actually started to conduct some pretty good training. We were given the funds for new equipment, more schools, and more activities. I was enrolled in ROTC to become an officer, so I would not be going on the deployment with them. However, when I found out I was pregnant, my plans for my military career were cut short. Foster is in a rapid deployment unit with little notice when called. He is unable to be outside a certain radius of his base and we do not have a family care plan that covers a call at 4 am if I am out of town for training or a deployment and he is home alone with the kids. So we decided it would be best for me to take the honorable discharge due to pregnancy. This would give me the option to reenlist 2 years following my discharge if I chose to.

I started asking my chain of command for the paper work and regulations that helped me get the process rolling, however, no one seemed to know anything about the pregnancy "out". With the hustle and bustle of the upcoming deployment, I feel like I was kind of brushed under the rug. I feel like I was almost snubbed because I got pregnant before a deployment. But I was already not going because of ROTC, and it wasn't like I did it on purpose, I was on birth control when it happened. I had to do the research on my own, get the paperwork printed up through a Sergent who was not in charge of doing so, and hunt my commander down to counsel me and get my discharge started. All of this SHOULD have been done earlier on in the pregnancy, and I SHOULD have been out by now. To top things off, they were not treating me like a pregnant soldier. they still made me go to the weapons range and fire a M16 while on my stomach fo 3 hours while I was 12 weeks pregnant and wearing about 20-30 lbs of gear. They threw me in the kitchen where I was on my feet for 8 hours straight, and made me ride in Humvees that shook me around like a baby rattle. I am not blaming the Army for the loss of my daughter, but I find it interesting that the bleeding started only a few days after the weapons range incident.
I finally got all of the paper work signed and sent up to higher headquarters on April 18, 2010. Well, we lost Rosie 2 days later. According to Regular Army regulation, if a woman loses a child 16 weeks gestation or after, than she still has the option of getting out of the military. This is an obvious regulation, because the emotional strain and mental anguish that goes along with losing a child takes over your existence, and is not conducive to being a good soldier. However, I guess the Ohio Army National guard does not agree with this. they claim if you lose the child, you are still enlisted, and your discharge orders are cancelled. So, my discharge was supposed to be April 28, 2010, and now it has been cancelled. Period. End of story. Sorry, I get no choice in the matter.

To say I am a little stunned is an understatement. I cannot imagine who would think that losing a child would be any different for a woman in active duty and part time. I understand an active duty soldier is a soldier everyday, but National Guard soldiers are getting deployed left and right now a days, and we still have to train away from home. I would NOT be able to mentally handle a deployment right now. I would freak out if I had to leave my home and husband for that long. I cannot even imagine going to annual training for 2 weeks this August and being away from Foster and the safety of my home for that long. If I could take him with me, that might be a different story, but unfortunately, unlike his missions where I accompany him, he cannot go with me.

I had a meeting with my commander to go over everything that had happened wrong through this process, what could be done next time to rectify the situation, and what my future plans with the Guard are. If everything had been done properly, I would already be discharged, and would not have to deal with all of this. He acknowledged this, and apologized for the hold up with my paperwork. He said although it was not an excuse, the deployment and subsequent cancellation of the deployment took up so much of his and the command's attention, that they unintentionally let my situation slip through the cracks. However, being a Nurse Practitioner, he agreed with me and felt that the Guard regulation pertaining to stillbirths was very disturbing, and he is going to bring it up at the next big meeting. I told him I wanted to do everything I could to get that policy changed and give the women the option of still getting out if they so choose. He is 100% behind me. I do not know exactly how it will effect me, probably not at all, but at least no other woman will have to stress over the Army while they are grieving their child.
He has given me an excuse from annual training this summer, and is going to allow me to make it up by helping in the office for a couple of weeks. He also promised that as soon as I get pregnant next time, that he will personally help me with the paperwork and make sure I am out without any stress since my next pregnancy will be stressful enough. I don't know if I am completely satisfied with the outcome, but I am glad he apologized and I hope he does not make the same mistake with me or any other female soldier for that matter. I hope he learned from his mistakes. Until the next pregnancy, I will continue to try and be the best soldier I can be regardless of the lack of enthusiasm from the other members, and will TRY and make the best of the rest of my experience in the Guard, however, I have come to the conclusion that I will probably never have the amazing experience that Foster has had. Who knows what my future holds in the Army, Whether my path leads me to a career in the military, or I remain only military wife and give up my job as a soldier, I will embrace it with an open mind and open arms. I just wish that I still had the passion from when I was in training, and pray that my feelings about my unit and the Guard will change in the coming months.


Maggie said...

Wow, I had no idea! I always admire people who serve our country. Whatever happens in the future, whether it's with the military or a new baby, I hope it makes you happy!! :) You deserve it!

Katrina Curry said...

That is so awful!!! I am sooo angry at the NG our Military Forces need to start doing things better and appropriately as the supposed best of the best they need to get their shit together it is embarrassing and a shame! Jim also had troubles when he was being discharged from the AF from Germany and it makes me SO angry at that and seeing a similar thing happened to you here and I do not think it helped your pregnancy at all! :(


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