In Change, Army Grants New Mothers a Full Year to Meet Body Fat Standards

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Army soldier with baby
U.S. Army Spc. ShaTyra Reed, with the 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, shares a moment with her daughter Amore near Fort Bragg, N.C., on April 25, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Hubert D. Delany III)

The Army is moving to double the physical standards grace period for soldiers who give birth. According to a service announcement released Friday night, new mothers in the Army will have 365 days, up from 180, to get back within body fat standards.

"Soldiers will not be entered into the Army Body Composition Program or face adverse administrative actions during this timeframe," officials said in a release. "In addition, Soldiers who are between 181 to 365 days postpartum and were flagged and entered into the ABCP after their pregnancy ended will have their flag removed and they will be removed from the ABCP program."

The change applies to soldiers on active duty and in the Reserve. It comes amid a military-wide conversation about how the services can better support women and mothers in uniform. A thread this month shared on Twitter by the account @thearmymomlife showed a series of photographs of fit female soldiers, many flexing or lifting weights, alongside documents showing they are outside Army body fat standards.

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For women in the Army, body fat maximums range from 30% to 36%. Body fat is assessed if a soldier falls outside height and weight maximums, and is calculated by taping the circumference of the neck and waist -- a system that has long been criticized as inaccurate.

Outside the Army, calls are also mounting for change.

In January, Military.com reported on a woman who was facing discharge from the Marine Corps after failing to fall back inside standard height and weight parameters within the required nine months.

"I had to make the conscious and correct decision to put my daughter's health above my weight loss," Gunnery Sgt. Julianna Pinder wrote in an appeal letter.

In Friday's announcement, Army Resilience Directorate chief Dr. James Helis said service leaders should "ensure nutrition counseling, weight management, and behavior modification resources are available to the Soldier" following childbirth.

"I encourage all leaders to proactively provide education and resources to these Soldiers to help them regain their individual readiness," Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston said in a statement.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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