Do single moms make the Air Force less military ready? Rebecca Edmonds was dismissed from the Air Force for failing to report her pregnancy while in training -- and because the Air Force has a policy against single parents enlisting. Edmonds found this all out the hard way.
She was just weeks away from graduation at Marquette University and a cadet with the Reserve Officers' Training Corps when she found out she was pregnant. She kept the pregnancy a secret, graduated, and was sworn in as a Second Lieutenant by her father, Captain Tony Edmonds. But when her pregnancy was revealed, she was dismissed from the service for fraud. Apparently the contract she signed stipulated that she report any pregnancy. But for Edmonds this isn't about fraud. This is about the injustice of the Air Force's policy against single parents.
Edmonds had forgotten about the pregnancy clause in her contract. But it was the final counseling session with her officer that really kept her from reporting her pregnancy. She says he told her, "I don't know what would happen to a cadet if she were to become pregnant. But I don't think it would be good. So just don't get pregnant." Edmonds was scared that she would be pressured to have an abortion or give up her baby.
Here's what a spokesman for the Air Force, Col. Kelly L. Goggins, told CNN would have happened if Edmonds had reported her pregnancy: "If Ms. Edmonds had reported her pregnancy, she would have been placed on medical recheck status until she gave birth. At that time she would have been able to commission if she were not a single parent, for example, if she were married, or had given the child up for adoption." Gulp! According to Edmonds and her parents, there is an implied third example: If she had aborted her baby. The Air Force says they would encourage no such thing.
At any rate, the Air Force says their policy against single parents enlisting is all about military readiness. Supposedly a single parent is less flexible. If you're deployed at the last minute, who will take care of your child? Can you leave at the drop of a hat, like married parents can?
But I think that's an outdated -- and inaccurate -- take on single parenting. In Edmond's case, she has a large, supportive family who could provide childcare for her at a moment's notice. And for that matter, who says a married couple would necessarily be more flexible? What if you have a sick or disabled spouse -- or if your spouse is abusive or otherwise unreliable?
Rebecca should have reported her pregnancy. And the Air Force does need to be able to deploy its service people at any time. But I think the Air Force needs to update its idea of a family. Being married isn't the only way to be a successful, reliable, and effective parent in the military.
Do you think the Air Force should reconsider its policy against single parents enlisting?
Image via CNN