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Old 07-22-2003, 04:48 AM
thedrifter thedrifter is offline
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Cool Childbirth Incident One 'First' The Military Didn't Need

07-21-2003

Childbirth Incident One 'First' The Military Didn't Need



By Matthew Dodd



In case you missed the nano-second of news media attention it received amid all the other major stories and issues from the war with Iraq, a Marine staff sergeant assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer gave birth to a healthy 7-pound boy on May 23 while her ship was operating in the Persian Gulf.



Pentagon officials at the time said they believed this was the first time an active-duty servicewoman delivered a baby on a combat ship in a war zone.



From my perspective as a career military officer, I fervently pray that this is also the very last time an active-duty woman delivers a baby on a combat ship in a war zone.



This event is certainly worthy of public and military attention, not only because it was a historic first-time event, but because of its realities, its implications, and the serious military readiness questions it raises.



The incident clearly moves the debate over gender-integration of combat units from the realm of the hypothetical to the realm of reality; from mere speculation to actuality. Itis no longer a ?What if??? scenario, but a legitimate ?What now??? situation. The bottom line is that now this has happened, all of us in the military need to closely examine what transpired, how those in her chain of command handled it, and what steps we must take to prevent a similar case from ever happening again.



According to an article in The Washington Times on June 11, 2003, the Marine:



?[T]old superiors that she did not know she was pregnant. ?She never told anybody she was pregnant,? the official said. ?I think she claimed she didn?t know she was pregnant. The good thing was the Boxer has a complete hospital on board, so that was not a problem ?. ? The Marine is assigned to a ground unit in Kuwait and was aboard the USS Boxer in the Gulf area when she went into labor.?



I first learned of this birth in an e-mail on May 28, but it wasn?t until June 10 that Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps finally released a public statement after a Washington Times inquiry:



?The medical staff of the USS Boxer delivered a 7-pound baby boy on board the ship May 23 at 10:58 p.m. The mother, a 33-year-old U.S. Marine staff sergeant, is assigned to Headquarters Battery 11th Marines as an administrative chief. Mother and baby, both healthy and in good condition, were transported from Boxer to the New al Mowasat Hospital in Salmiya, Kuwait. Following a short stay, they will travel to San Diego. Names are being withheld until immediate family has been notified.?



According to the article, Navy regulations, which also cover the Marine Corps, say that pregnancy is compatible with military service. Updated this past March, the regulations further state:



?The individual servicewoman is responsible for notifying her CO ... of her pregnancy as soon as possible, but no later than two weeks after diagnosis of pregnancy. This will help facilitate planning a request for replacement requisition if the servicewoman is in a seagoing/deployable billet.?



Based on the sketchy details of this improbable and unexpected birth, let me add some assumptions to help paint a more complete picture of what happened.



The Marine claimed she was unaware of her pregnancy, so she probably did not give herself or her baby proper pre-natal care, thereby putting herself and her baby at greater risk. When she went into labor, I know that the exceptional Navy medical professionals I have come to know and love left nothing to chance to protect mother and baby.



Since the Boxer?s medical facilities were not specifically prepared nor configured for a birth, I am sure the medical personnel involved performed many individual heroic acts to protect and safely bring forth life at sea. Transporting mother and son to the hospital in Kuwait was unplanned and showed some of the inherent flexibility in our forward-deployed naval forces. What a lucky and special little boy!



Nevertheless, there were a number of inherent risks and dangers faced by all associated with this event:



* What if the Boxer had been involved in amphibious combat operations when the Marine went into labor?



* What if the Boxer?s medical personnel and facilities had been fully engaged with combat casualties when the Marine went into labor?



* Why are we willing to flirt with the possibility of having the Boxer's medical and operational leadership diverted from their primary responsibilities to deal with pregnancy and birth-at-sea issues?



* What if there had been complications with the birth, especially during combat operations?



* Would combat casualties have taken precedence over the birth process if resources were an issue?



* Can we afford the additional resources (time, equipment, personnel, leadership decision-making, etc.) to make the special, impromptu arrangements to ensure the safety of mothers and their babies on combatant warships?



* Are we willing and able to deal with the breakdown of unit cohesion when expectant and new mothers must be transported to facilities ashore in compliance with Navy regulations?



According to the Times article, I agree with Elaine Donnelly, director of the Center for Military Readiness, who said the birth should spur the Pentagon to review its policies:



?President Bush should immediately request detailed information on deployability problems and evacuations due to pregnancy during the battle of Iraq,? she said. ?Today?s Marine Corps and Navy cannot afford policies that subsidize and, therefore, encourage irresponsible behavior. This baby was born safely, despite obvious hazards, but childbirth aboard warships is not an acceptable situation.?



Lt. Col. Matthew Dodd USMC is a Senior Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at mattdodd1775@hotmail.com.

http://www.sftt.org/cgi-bin/csNews/c....8490954354994


Sempers,

Roger
__________________
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY HUSBAND
SSgt. Roger A.
One Proud Marine
1961-1977
68/69
Once A Marine............Always A Marine.............

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