The U.S. Coast Guard announced Tuesday it will implement a program to pay shipping costs for service members who send breast milk to their babies when they are underway or on other official travel.
The reimbursement program, funded by Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, will pay up to $750 a year per household for shipping. It will be available to all active-duty personnel, Public Health Services officers and Navy chaplains detailed to the Coast Guard, reserve members on active duty status, spouses on business travel and Coast Guard civilian employees.
The new benefit is among a host of initiatives underway in the sea service to attract and keep women. In a Coast Guard-wide message, Rear Adm. Matthew Sibley, acting assistant commandant for Human Resources, said feedback from the service’s Women's Retention Study and Holistic Analysis, contributed the new policy’s creation.
Earlier this year, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz promised numerous changes in the coming year designed to keep women in the service, attract female recruits and increase diversity.
Women constitute nearly 15 percent of the Coast Guard, but they tend to leave at rates higher than men after about five years – usually during the time when they start having families.
Groundbreaking changes in the past few months designed to strike a work-life balance for members include implementing a program that allows reserve members to backfill active-duty positions when personnel are on maternity, convalescent or caregiver leave.
The Coast Guard also has eliminated gender-specific pronouns from promotion packages and professional evaluations. And it is exploring changes to physical standards, which are based on body mass and require a tape measurement of all personnel twice a year.
Schultz has said the standards disproportionately affect women and cause undue stress on service members.
To receive the breast milk shipment reimbursement, personnel must be away from home on temporary duty, deployment, traveling on official business or have an excused absence.
They may apply for reimbursement for any period where they are away from home for more than 72 hours and must submit their request for payment within 60 days of returning home.
A receipt is required. Any service member who has shipped breast milk prior to the date of ALCOAST 215/19 can apply for reimbursement for shipments since Jan. 1. They have until Aug. 31 to request the benefit.
More details on the program can be found on the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance website.