Tags: Marine's | 'Stealth | Baby' | Persian | Gulf | Causes | Uproar

Marine's 'Stealth Baby' in Persian Gulf Causes Uproar in Military

Monday, 16 June 2003 12:00 AM

The 33-year-old Marine, who gave birth to a healthy 7-pound boy aboard the amphibious ship USS Boxer in the Persian Gulf on May 23, allegedly told her superiors she did not know she was pregnant.

How a pregnant Marine serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom managed to keep her condition secret struck some officials and observers as far-fetched and is prompting calls for an investigation.

"To say that she did not know she was pregnant really strains credulity, and I think people should have asked questions," said Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness.

Donnelly said Friday that the matter demonstrated the opportunity for abuse of the liberal pregnancy policies imposed on the Navy and Marine Corps in 1995 by then-Secretary of the Navy John Dalton.

The woman's superiors may have been afraid to ask questions that could be interpreted as negative comments under the Dalton policies, said Donnelly, who served on the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces.

"If a pregnant sailor or Marine has to leave or is evacuated due to pregnancy, negative comments are simply not allowed. It's almost like a whole new definition of 'don't ask, don't tell,'" Donnelly said.

A full investigation, however, could pave the way for the Pentagon to take constructive steps to end policies that can encourage pregnancies, Donnelly said.

"When something like this happens, it forces change. Obviously, this can't be allowed to continue or happen again. There are certain causes that are fixable," Donnelly said.

Investigators need to examine why apparently no questions were asked about the woman's weight gain and if other women also violate body weight standards. They also should look at how many pregnancies prevented deployments of service women since 9/11 and how many evacuations were necessary during the deployments due to pregnancy, analysts said.

In 1991, analysts noticed a spike in pregnancies just before and during Desert Storm.

"A pregnancy does not result in any kind of disciplinary procedures whatsoever. In fact, there are very generous benefits that work to 'incentivize' single parenthood and pregnancies," Donnelly said. "This issue is much bigger than just one sailor or one Marine."

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also is calling for an investigation.

"It may prove politically incorrect, but it's critically important to ask tough questions about the impact, costs and consequences of current military personnel policies and their influence on the birth of a baby in a combat zone," said Bartlett, who inserted a number of documents in the Congressional Record on June 11 related to the incident.

Military officials were unable to provide further information on the circumstances of the birth, which marked the first time a woman on active duty delivered a baby in a war zone.

The Marine, whose name has not been released, is assigned to the Headquarters Battery of 11th Marines, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., as an administrative chief.

After the baby was born, the mother and child were taken to a hospital in Kuwait, said 1st Lt. Dan Rawson, a Camp Pendleton spokesman. From there, they were transferred to Germany and are now on their way back to San Diego, he said.

Maj. Matt McLaughlin, a Marine spokesman, said officials will conduct an investigation.

"It's absolutely fair to say that her command is going to be looking into the issue of how she came to deploy, being some months pregnant at the time that she deployed apparently, and how that was overlooked.

"It is the policy of the Marine Corps to have individual Marines bring to the attention of their commands that they are in fact pregnant," McLaughlin said.

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The 33-year-old Marine, who gave birth to a healthy 7-pound boy aboard the amphibious ship USS Boxer in the Persian Gulf on May 23, allegedly told her superiors she did not know she was pregnant. How a pregnant Marine serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom managed to keep her...
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Monday, 16 June 2003 12:00 AM
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