Air Force Changes Policy on Limiting Orders for Pregnant Reservists

Airman First Class Brandy Fraher, who is in the final stages of her pregnancy, receives an examination from Major Noreen Burke during a unit training assembly. (Air Force Photo)
Airman First Class Brandy Fraher, who is in the final stages of her pregnancy, receives an examination from Major Noreen Burke during a unit training assembly. (Air Force Photo)

Pregnant Air Force reservists and guardsmen on active duty are now eligible to serve out their orders until they give birth, according to a recent policy change.

The change affects airmen in the reserve component serving in active-duty capacity, also known as Active Duty Operational Support (ADOS) orders.

"Prior to this change, Reserve and Guard members were taken off active-duty support orders in their 34th week of pregnancy regardless of whether or not they were medically able to serve," Air Force spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder told reporters Tuesday.

The order, authorized last month by then-Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Gabe Camarillo, allows pregnant service members to serve through the end of their orders or the birth of their child -- "whichever comes first," Ryder said.

"This policy removes a perceived barrier that pregnancy is a limiting factor in retaining talent," Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske said. "Air Force leadership reviewed an outdated policy and adjusted course in order to be more inclusive. This decision is another step toward a more diverse and inclusive culture, enabling airmen to make their greatest contribution to mission success."

The Air Force for first time granted 12 weeks of paid maternity leave to all active-duty and reservist female airmen on active orders for at least 12 months, per the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

How that applies to reservist airmen can vary, said Col. Pamela Powers, the mobilization assistant to the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs.

"The key is eligibility," Powers said. "A critical factor in obtaining non-chargeable maternity leave is a continuous ADOS order or multiple sets of orders.

"If a reservist goes off ADOS orders to participate or attend Inactive Duty Training or Unit Training Assembly periods, it constitutes a break in orders and negates the 12-month continuous period, which in turn, makes them ineligible for the 12 weeks of non-chargeable maternity leave," Powers said.

Airmen in the Guard or Reserve on shorter tours can serve until the original order termination date, or the date of birth "plus any accrued ordinary leave, whichever is earlier," according to an Air Force release.

In some cases, pregnant reservists can have their ADOS orders extended "past the 12-month pregnancy threshold if there is a valid requirement, funding is available and both their permanent unit and supported unit commanders approve," the release said.

"However, there are limitations and exceptions to serving throughout a pregnancy," Powers added.

"The supported commander will determine whether duty limitations would prevent the airman from performing her duties, whether she can be transferred to other duties or, if necessary, a curtailment of the orders," she said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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