Navy revamps policy for assigning pregnant sailors to shore duty

by Tommy Grant

The Navy has changed its pregnancy policy so that sailors who become pregnant during sea duty can be moved to critical shore job openings, a change that Navy leaders say will provide sailors a chance to choose jobs that advance their career as they start a family.

The policy update means that pregnant sailors serving on sea duty can take on shore duty billets for at least two years at a location where they can access proper medical care while ensuring their naval careers stay on track, according to a new naval administrative, or NAVADMIN, message released Tuesday.

“I want a Navy where no sailor ever has to give up a successful naval career in order to have a family,” Rear Adm. Wayne Baze, commander of Navy Personnel Command, told reporters in November.

“I’m going to put you through a standard detailing process to get you to a shore assignment that is best for you professionally and personally for development, and also a place to have a gapped billet where I need something done for the Navy,” Baze added.

Under the previous policy, pregnant sailors were reassigned to shore duty billets primarily based on what assignments were open near them at their current duty station, Baze said.

But now, sailors could shift duty stations if a critical shore duty billet is open at another command, Baze said, even from San Diego to Norfolk if the fit was right.

According to Baze, the policy change aligns with other quality of life initiatives the Navy is tackling, and the old policy didn’t focus enough on matching a sailor’s skillset with their personal choices when it came to filling critical billets.

“The service member is given a lot of choices on location on where they’re assigned,” Baze said of the new policy. “So it’s a give and take. It’s not just needs of the Navy where they go for shore duty assignment – it’s also based on that individual’s preference. Geolocation is important, depending on where the medical care and family support is…But it’s meaningful employment that we’re trying to target for the sailor.”

The policy also means that sailors who become pregnant during a shore duty assignment and are within 13 months of their projected rotation date may either extend their current assignment or choose another critical billet opening in their local area.

“It allows us not just only stability for the person who is raising the child, but it also allows stability for the command that they’re going to so they can have a long time, a reasonably lengthy time, to support the command’s needs,” Baze said. “And because of that, we are more flexible in our ability to assign them to other places.”

Sea duty commands may submit an Operational Deferment waiver to keep sailors at their current assignment during the pregnancy and postpartum period — provided the sailor, the commanding officer and the health care provider sign on to the agreement as well.

The policy also says that if a sailor suffers a miscarriage or a stillbirth and has not executed shore orders, pregnancy tour orders will be canceled and they will remain onboard their current activity through their projected rotation date.

“Perinatal loss presents significant risk to Sailor readiness if returning to duty before fully recovered,” the NAVADMIN said. “Sailors who experience perinatal loss may be granted convalescent leave with guidance from their health care provider in line with medical practice standards.”

As of November, the Navy had roughly 14,000 billets gapped ashore. However, officials said those numbers fluctuate regularly based on permanent change of stations, ship decommissioning, or ships moving into a maintenance availability.

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