BAGHDAD — Seven U.S. soldiers, including three men, have already been punished under six-week-old rules making pregnancy a violation of military law in northern Iraq.
Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, who commands Multi-National Division — North, said he instituted the ban when he took over in early November to prevent the loss of valuable female soldiers, since troops who become pregnant are sent home.
“The message to my female soldiers is that I need you for the duration,” Cucolo said in a phone interview late Monday. “Please think before you act.”
Four soldiers have been found to be pregnant since the order was enacted, Cucolo said. Cucolo commands about 22,000 soldiers, 1,700 of whom are female.
Though any violation of the ban, which applies only to those under Cucolo, could theoretically be punished by court-martial and jail time, he said disciplinary actions are being handled at a lower level.
The ban is part of General Order No. 1, which also bars U.S. troops and civilians attached to the military from consuming alcohol and possessing pornography. It does not ban sex.
The four soldiers who became pregnant were given letters of reprimand that will not remain a part of the permanent military file, Cucolo said, as were two of the male soldiers.
The third male soldier, a noncommissioned officer who is married and impregnated a subordinate who is not his wife, was also charged with fraternization and given a permanent letter of reprimand, Cucolo said.
One of the female soldiers declined to say who impregnated her and the unit “let it drop,” Cucolo said, adding that he had no plans to further investigate paternity.
“I’m in a war zone,” he said. “I don’t have time for that.”
Cucolo said he discussed the ban with his commanders, including a female battalion commander and a command sergeant major, and all agreed “wholeheartedly.” The unit had experienced a number of pregnancies prior to its deployment, he said.
“I can’t tell you how valuable my female soldiers are,” Cucolo said. “They fly helicopters. They run satellites. They’re mechanics. They’re medics. Some of the best intelligence analysts I have happen to be female. You start losing them when you’re facing a drawdown, and you really hurt the unit.”
Cucolo said the order had been vetted by his legal advisers. The inspector general for Iraq, Col. David Thompson, has said the order is legal.
No other units in Iraq have instituted similar rules on pregnancy, military officials said. A spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan said there was no pregnancy ban there.