Home Civilian based defense The power of an idea and a team

The power of an idea and a team


Ed. Remark: This is the latest in a series of articles on motherhood in the legal profession, in partnership with our friends at MothersEsquire. Welcome Sam Sliney to our pages. Click on here if you would like to donate to MothersEsquire.

I am a girl. Sister. Little girl. Aunt. The niece. Spouse. Aviator. Lawyer…and the list could go on and on. But my most precious and rewarding title is that of Mother. Also known as Mum, Mom and Mum to my 4 year old son and 2 year old daughter. When I became a mother in 2017, after learning that I was pregnant with my son, I began to understand how difficult it is to be a mother, a lawyer and an aviator. I am a Judge Advocate (also known as a JAG) in the United States Air Force, which in plain language means I am an active duty attorney for the Department of the Army. ‘air. At the time, I was working as a prosecutor and managing the criminal file of the base to which I was assigned.

The Department of the Air Force and the Department of Defense have come a long way to support active duty women as they juggle career and parenthood. It’s crazy to think that it wasn’t until June 2, 1948, that women were officially “allowed” to serve in the military despite their immense contribution to the war efforts in the previous years. In 1971, women were allowed to serve while pregnant (although they had to meet certain “waiver” criteria). Previously, they had been immediately fired against their will for becoming pregnant because “pregnancy” was considered incompatible with military service (and therefore motherhood). We owe this victory in part to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Only seven years ago, all combat jobs were open to women. Again this year, the Department of the Air Force has made a dramatic policy change by offering female airwomen the ability to fly while pregnant during any trimester, provided it is medically safe and the commander supports the pilot’s decision to fly.

Between all of these milestones, there have been other monumental victories as the military has become a more inclusive workplace for women. Women and men now have up to 12 weeks of parental leave (if they wish). Women are excluded from temporary travel and deployment for 12 months after the birth of a child and have 12 months after the birth of a child to meet the physical standards and pass a physical fitness test to demonstrate compliance with the standards . In addition, women benefit from a comprehensive breastfeeding policy that requires a place of expression that is not a bathroom and a place to store breast milk. All of these steps have made it easier for women to serve through all phases of womanhood, especially pregnancy and parenthood, but we are still nibbling at the iceberg.

When I returned to work in 2018 after my parental leave, I noticed that the Department of the Air Force lacked the support needed to support women choosing to travel for work while balancing the demands of life. breastfeeding their children. As any lawyer would, I looked to the law to see what needed to be changed to provide this support to military and civilian employees. I quickly learned that this would require a change to the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR): the document that governs coverage of travel expenses for all uniformed service members and civilian employees of the Department of Defense. Another thing I quickly learned was that I had no idea how to change the JTR and would need help. A dear friend put me in touch with the Women’s Initiatives Team at the Department of the Air Force (WIT). WIT’s mission is to identify barriers to women’s service within the Department of the Air Force and Department of Defense that influence and impact women’s propensity to serve, and to advocate for the removal these barriers through policy change.

This singular connection not only gave my idea the momentum it needed to become a reality, but it also brought me to a group of people from all backgrounds and experiences who shared my passion for building a department. Inclusive Air Force to foster diversity, equity, and accessibility for all. I found my tribe. For that, I will be eternally grateful. I found something I didn’t even know I needed. I found listening ears to bounce my ideas off of, encouragement on bad days, and a family to celebrate big and small victories with. I hope everyone finds that sense of belonging at some point in their lives.

After nearly two and a half years of research and advocacy at all levels of the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense and our uniformed services (Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Public Health and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), my seemingly small contribution to inclusiveness has become a reality. It was surreal. On April 8, 2022, the JTR was amended to provide, for the first time ever, uniformed military personnel and lactating civilian employees the opportunity to be reimbursed for the cost of transporting their breast milk when traveling on duty. temporary away from their baby until the age of two. This small step demonstrates a major step forward in supporting uniformed service members and civilian employees through all stages of life.

Ultimately, parents looking to advance in their careers shouldn’t have to sacrifice how they choose to feed their children because policies aren’t inclusive and don’t provide support. When it comes to parenting, #SupportIsBest. This mantra has driven our advocacy campaign throughout the Department of the Air Force and beyond. Now, this level of support is available across the Department of Defense and uniformed services.

As I reflect on these two plus years and look to the future, I am reminded of the power of like-minded individuals coming together to effect positive change and the impact even a few individuals can have. on a society, a culture, and the lives of others. I encourage you not to miss a problem. If something impacts your ability to succeed, I can assure you that it impacts others as well. Identify the problem. Find your tribe to help drive change. Build your team and race eagerly towards your goal. It will most likely take many hours, emails and phone calls, and the change probably won’t be quick, but believe me, it will be worth it. You may not be able to change the whole world, but you can make a change that will mean the world to someone else.

Sam SlineySam Sliney is a mother of two and the wife of an Army Green Beret. Since 2014, she has served in the US Air Force as a Judge Advocate (JAG). She is currently assigned to a Special Operations Forces (SOF) unit where she provides legal advice on a wide range of legal matters, including operations and international law. Sam is passionate about creating an inclusive Air Force and Department of Defense department to increase joint force lethality. Specifically, she advocates for equal support and accessibility for women during all phases of womanhood, especially pregnancy and postpartum.