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Air Force gives new moms more time to decide if they want to keep serving

An updated policy gives pregnant airmen like Staff Sgt. Bethany Mutter of the 18th Medical Squadron in Okinawa, Japan, more time to decide if they want to stay in the service.

JESSICA BIDWELL/STARS AND STRIPES

By JESSICA BIDWELL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 11, 2017

OKINAWA, Japan — The Air Force is giving airmen up to a year after giving birth to decide whether they want to stay in uniform.

The service, which previously required pregnant airmen to choose whether to separate before giving birth, announced the policy change last month.

New mothers now have 12 months after the birth of their child to decide whether they want to separate. The separation date can’t be more than 12 months after applying.

The policy applies to active-duty, National Guard and Air Force Reserve mothers, the Air Force said.

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The change means more decision time for Staff Sgt. Bethany Mutter, a dual-military wife serving in Okinawa, Japan, who’s expecting her second child.

“My first child was a large adjustment. I wasn’t used to having a kid and juggling the military,” she said. “I‘m glad I stayed in, but it wasn’t easy. Now I am facing a whole new set of circumstances - another child in the military as a dual military couple.”

Mutter, who works with the 18th Medical Operations Squadron, said it’s a challenge raising children overseas without family support.

“We have four months before the baby will be here, so we do have time to make a decision … I appreciate the peace of mind that this new policy has given us,” she said.

Mutter said the extra time will help keep her and her spouse from making rash decisions.

“We can think out our plan, follow through and experience life with two kids versus one before making a decision,” she said.

The change follows the Air Force’s extension last year of paid maternity leave from six to 12 weeks.

“I think the Air Force is heading in a very positive direction,” Mutter said. “We are becoming more family oriented. Women are going to appreciate this option. I think it will actually lead to more females entering the Air Force.”

bidwell.jessica@stripes.com

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