J.David Galland: VMI Pregnancy Policy a Rare Case of True Gender Equality

Can it be true, does a military college actually have the guts, and sense to expel cadets who are in a family way?

Well, hold on to your Stress Cards, your Consideration of Others manuals and your Army Values dog tags. The esteemed Virginia Military Institute has announced that effective Jan. 15, 2002, that it will terminate both the student and the cadet status of aspiring attendees who are discovered to be “with child.”

As a soldier who has served under seven presidents, this sounds like a pretty good policy to me. Inasmuch as I just had the honor and pleasure of becoming a father to a bouncing baby boy five months ago, I can bring an additional, personal perspective to this issue. For nine months, I observed my wife – strong physically and mentally – weave her way through a pregnancy that was termed “uncomplicated.” I cannot imagine how any candidate in that condition could rise to the physical rigors of a military academy curriculum while managing the requirements of being a parent.

In the active Army, pregnant soldiers are simply exempt from normal physical training, full work days, and rigorous training by virtue of physical profiling and are often assigned light duties, similar to a soldier with a broken ankle (that will heal) or bad case of the flu (which will pass). A pregnant female soldier may also opt to depart the military under honorable conditions.

What the Virginia Military Institute has done is decide that it will not allow its cadets to attempt the impossible: To carry out the physical and academic rigors of institute life while simultaneously having and then raising a child.

The VMI leadership has recognized that a cadet must be a total team player and student leader. One of the core tenets of being a member of the corps of cadets is that each individual is part of a team in which a weak link will denigrate the team’s overall effectiveness. This precludes time off for child-rearing and both the moral and physical responsibilities that accompany such an undertaking. Potential candidates are made fully aware of this fact before they are allowed to pursue such a challenging academic undertaking at the VMI.

I believe that the VMI decision to impose this new policy is grounded in both logic and wisdom. VMI has determined that cadets who cannot carry their load due to pregnancy, who cannot partake in rigorous physical training, who cannot bolster the team with their total dedication to the training challenges, who need time off when the blessed day comes (and weeks thereafter), are not appropriate candidates for the corps of cadets.

One can safely assume that this policy will not go unchallenged by the great minds of the American legal profession who believe that it less important that VMI’s formal goals – graduating and commissioning cadets as capable junior military officers – are achieved, but rather, how flexible can the institution be in allowing for the special needs of a few individual – that is, pregnant – cadets. The legal and philosophical underpinning of the anticipated assault on VMI could be gleaned by a recent comment from one Ms. Jocelyn Samuels, of the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D. C., who said, “We have concerns about this policy as a legal matter, as a policy of common sense” (italics added).

It is clear that in the “common sense” minds of the activists of the National Women’s Law Center, neither VMI’s institutional purpose, nor the educational focus of the corps of cadets nor the post-graduate realities of military service have any significant weight in the issue over cadet pregnancies.

I can’t help but wonder if Ms. Samuels would have similar concerns for a handful of male Ranger and Delta Force male soldiers getting cut to ribbons by Somali crazies. I already know the answer to that, and so do you, the reader. I am proud to add that many soldiers who have worked for me over the years have been perceptive enough to see through the thin veneer of motivation of those whom have sought to ensure gender equality in the ranks.

Yes, Ms. Samuels, there a lot of smart soldiers who see right through people like you.

Soldiers, male and female, realize that they, as individuals, mean nothing to those who claim to be the champions of women’s rights and equality in the military. They remain steadfastly convinced that they have been nothing more than pawns on a political chessboard. My undying respect and my sincere thanks go out to those female soldiers, the quiet strong performers, for seeing right through the warped motivations of the feminist movement’s ideas for what the military should be, for standing their ground during the gender-equality wars and continuing to soldier on!

My own “common sense” take on pregnancy in the ranks stems from applying that scenario to an infantry rifle squad: If female soldiers were allowed to serve in the infantry, a couple of pregnant soldiers in a rifle squad would create a gap in the ranks that would literally render the team combat ineffective – that is, probably dead on a battlefield out here in the real world.

(VMI also intends to boot out male cadets who are expectant fathers, whether or not the expectant woman is a cadet, but this facet of the policy has failed to excite feminist activists.)

J. David Galland is thirty-year veteran of the U. S. Army's Military Intelligence Corps, as well, the founder and president of Bound & Overwatch-The Military Observer, http://www.boundandoverwatch.com. He is also the Deputy Editor of Soldiers For The Truth, Defense Watch, http://www.sftt.org.