Lactation Station Nation

Where do lactating troops fit in this picture?

Walter Stewart (Guest Post)

Sleep tight tonight, America.  At least some of the roughly one million soldiers of your Modern Volunteer Army (MOVAR, a dated acronym), part of the “finest fighting force in the history of the world,” remain awake.

A relative few are awake because they are in harm’s way.  Sleep in “Indian Country,” as my gun platoon warriors called the Mekong Delta badlands in Vietnam, is difficult.  More of our MOVAR troops are awake because of the harm their countrymen did to their bodies and minds by launching them on one of this nation’s many undeclared and therefore unwinnable wars – their restlessness will last a lifetime.

And then there are those awake breastfeeding infants or “expressing milk,” whatever that means.

It’s hard for this old soldier to get his mind around the concept of lactating troops and the realities of dealing with new Department of the Army guidance, such as “Non-restroom lactation areas must include a flat space where the soldier can rest her breast pump.”  It’s even harder to fathom how lactating “Ranger Janes” can be anything but a drag on the common defense.

Regarding the common defense, I observe that in my pre-MOVAR days there were more than enough America males to fill the ranks of a far larger army – and from a national population roughly half what it is now.  Countrymen, what happened to turn so many of us boys to beating the war drums while hiding behind skirts?  To borrow a term from Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s as if “girly-men” have taken over to do nothing more than cheer the troops into battle while chugging one cup of “finest-military-ever” Kool-Aid after another.  Too many of us, gentlemen, are pantywaists.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Throw enough money at the MOVAR, promised big government facilitator Alan Greenspan, and more than enough quality males would enlist as servicemen.  Regrettably, this bit of Greenspan happy talk wasn’t any better than his pre-meltdown assurance of bank health, so now, with the ordered opening of all service positions to females, we launch on a quest to flesh out service ranks with quality women, some nursing, some expressing.

Having led troops in war and peace, I’m trying to figure out how I would accomplish giving female soldiers time to express milk “with the intent to maintain physiological capability for lactation.”  I’m not sure what that means, but if we’re at war can the noise of a lactation pump reveal friendly positions to the enemy?  These questions, and more, need to be asked and answered.  However, and with certainty, service seniors will just go along to get along.

That’s what I would do – go into survival mode.  Take the pay, perks, pensions, and “thank you for your service” platitudes, while remembering Rudyard Kipling’s admonition to keep your head while all those about you are losing theirs.

Lactation station nation, that’s us, pumping pap to those so delusional as to believe that in the world of warriors, males and females are universally interchangeable.

Walter Stewart rose from a private in the army of regulars, reservists, and draftees raised to fight in Vietnam, to a major general serving with the thousands of citizen-soldiers of the 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Now retired, Stewart is a strong advocate for a citizen-military and a saner world.

6 thoughts on “Lactation Station Nation

  1. Lactation stations in a combat zone? No problem, Gen. Stewart! Just intone the magic words “Field expedience”!! But, I jest, of course. Obviously women soldiers actively breastfeeding infants will not be deployed to combat zones. As a self-proclaimed feminist, I advocate strongly for equal rights for women in every aspect of society. But as an opponent of the US War Machine, I encourage no one, of any sex/gender, to join the military. By the way, General, are you aware a bill has been introduced in Congress to actually scrap the Selective Service System? Does this horrify you?


    1. Sir, no offense but you took the bait. You are right that breastfeeding soldiers will not be deploying to combat zones, which begs the question as to why they are in the service in the first place. And for females wishing to avoid deployment, the avoidance becomes easy: get pregnant; deliver, nurse; for longer wars, repeat as necessary. Our services exist to win our wars, not birth our babies.


      1. Tsk, tsk, General! You are suggesting that red-blooded all-American patriots enlisting voluntarily in the US Military–THE GREATEST FIGHTING FORCE IN THE WORLD, remember!!–might try to shirk their duty by seeking pregnancy?!? Now I truly am shocked!!


      2. I just did a quick search of the Internet and found several articles on rapes in the U.S. military, just one of which I will reference here: Incidents of rape in military much higher than previously reported, By Patricia Kime, Staff writer, Military Times (December 5, 2014). I only wish to note here the report that military men also suffer rape perpetrated upon them by their male colleagues. Naturally, military servicewomen suffered many more instances of rape which, in many cases, led to unwanted pregnancies, something that doesn”t happen to male rape victims. I only mention such reports because they remind me of Sir Winston Churchill’s notorious comment about the three things that kept the Royal Navy afloat and victorious: “Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash.”

        Military life can get truly viciouis and degrading, not just for women, but for men as well. I think we would all do well to recognize this and not attribute suspect motives — like dereliction of duty — to our military victims of military crimes covered-up in many instances by military commanders who in some cases retailiate against the subordinate victims for reporting sexual assaults upon them, adding evern further injury and degradation to the personal lives of our service-victims.

        This article makes some rather sweeping, unwarranted assumptions which I will endeavor to rebut in another reply. Suffice it to say in closing these remarks, that the United States requires and deserves a military no larger than one voluntarily staffed excluslively by rich white men. That ought to show those impoverished male and female slackers!


        1. Mike–re: your first comment, what a quote from Churchill!! I had never seen that one. Of course the lash is rivetingly demonstrated in an early scene of the 1935 “Mutiny On The Bounty” wherein Capt. Bligh orders the flogging of a common seaman who has already expired! I never saw that movie until well into my adult life and that scene certainly got my attention.

          I have commented elsewhere on blog sites that “1984” is surely the most important novel of the 20th Century. The “book within the book” is simply brilliant and I’ve always assumed it represented Orwell’s personal view. However, do you not think the US Military Machine hankers for genuine, decisive, indisputable victories over those it designates enemies? Think of the testosterone and finest champagne that would be flowing in the rat’s nest called The Pentagon!! The m.o. would be plain: rack up a glorious victory, then pick the next lucky recipient of the title “enemy.” The war gear needn’t gather rust or dust, just keep moving forward rather than getting bogged down in one godforsaken patch of wasteland for years (decades?) on end. Decisive wins would NOT bring the “threat” of a “peace dividend.” So why no victory? We already know what the reactionaries will say: “Our troops aren’t being allowed by politicians to fight to win.” During the struggle in opposition to the War Against Vietnam, this clever slogan arose: “They may be Viet Cong, but they live there.” Nazi Germany could not defeat the guerillas in the Balkans/Greece. The US could not defeat the peoples of Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. The present war in the so-called Middle East features opponents of US hegemony who are considered foreign fighters on the soil of a given “nation” (bearing in mind the questionable origins of the modern borders), but still they share common cultural roots, which overwhelmingly includes the embrace of Islam. (Notwithstanding the Sunni-Shiite schism.) We might say that, in a cultural sense, they enjoy “home turf advantage” over the US forces fighting far, far from home, weighted down with their modern military weaponry. But of course no one in pursuit of the US Presidency (with the exception of minor party candidates with no hope whatsoever of being elected) will speak in such language.


  2. I mean no personal offense to the person who wrote this article, but I cannot allow to pass unchallenged the absurd claim that “our services exist to win our wars …”

    No, they don’t.

    As a matter of fact, they exist for only one purpose: namely, to to keep the ruling corporate oligarchy in riches and power by denying any taste of both to the common working poeple. George Orwell explained this in his “Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivisn, ” the book-within-a-book from 1984. In the section entitled War is Peace, he writes:

    The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living.”

    In other words, war means waste, and nothing wastes like the bloated, ineffectual U.S. military — by intent and design.

    America’s uniformed/corporate-camp-follower/permanent-conflict establishment endlessly agitates for never-ending “war” (i.e., inconclusive “fighting”) for ephemeral “fragile gains” “achieved” (meaning, proclaimed) after decades of bewildered belligerency in one impoverished foreign backwater after another, decade after decade, never learning a thing of value from the experience — like not to do it again — but nevertheless demanding and receiving ever More! More! More! of everthing for accomplishing nothing of value to our country. What a colossal waste — and deliberately so. To illustrate these assertions, I would like to quote first from Stanley Karnow, Vietnam, a History: the First Complete Account of Vietnam at War (New York: Viking Press, 1983; Penguin Books, 1984), p. 136:

    “[U.S. President Lyndon] Johnson subscribed to the adage that “wars are too serious to be entrusted to generals.” He knew, as he once put it, that armed forces “need battles and bombs and bullets in order to be heroic,” and that they would drag him into a military conflict if they could. But he also knew that Pentagon lobbyists, among the best in the business, could persuade conservatives in Congress to sabotage his social legislation unless he satisfied their demands. As he girded himself for the 1964 presidential campaign, he was especially sensitive to the jingoists who might brand him “soft on communism” were he to back away from the challenge in Vietnam. So, politician that he was, he assuaged the brass and the braid with promises he may never have intended to keep. At a White House reception on Christmas Eve 1963, for example, he told the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “Just let me get elected, and you can have your war.”

    So, even as I sat in my high-school classroom, thinking that Democratic Party candidate Lyndon Johnson meant to avoid a devasting war in Southeast Asia as opposed to his virulent opponent, Republican Party Senator Barry Goldwater, both my president and his military establishment had already cooked up an agreement to pursue a needless and ruinous war anyway. I didn’t know about this official treachery at the time, but I eventually learned about the venality and mendacity of these men in only a few short years. By 1973, only a year after I returned from Vietanam, historian Arthur Schlesinger explained everything to me and anyone else who wanted to know in The Imperial Presidency:

    “The policy of indiscriminate global intervention, far from strengthening American security, seemed rather to weaken it by involving the United States in remote, costly and mysterious wars, fought in ways that shamed the nation before the world and, even when thus fought, demonstrating only the inability of the most powerful nation on earth to subdue bands of guerrillas in black pajamas.”

    Both of these quotes still ring true today, in that America has a self-interested military establishment that actively insists on fighting needless wars and will undermine any civilian administration that doesn’t give the career military the endless wars they demand. As well, once the corporations and the politicians and the generals get the wars they want, they will prove unable to subdue even those impoverished, poppy growing goat herders in the Hindu Kush. Nothing about this monstrous waste for the profit of a few has changed since the end of the Second World War.

    As a matter of fact, the U.S. military services have not won a war since 1945, the last time that the American Congress actually declared a real war against a real nation-state enemy while pledging “the entire resources of the nation” to the successful conclusion of that very real conflict. Note the key concept here, namely: ending, terminating, finishing, wrapping-up, getting-over-with, etc., etc. The U.S. military services dread nothing more than actually ending a conflict, because that would necessitate their demobilization and return to productive civilian life. Indeed, the idea of a “permanent,” “standing,” “civilian” military constitutes a contradiction in terms. In reality, a small professional cadre — mostly dispersed throughout the 50 state militias (or national guards) — would suffice for the “defense” of the United States. The Pacific and Atlantic oceans, along with the military inoffensiveness of Canada and Mexico, provide practically all the “defense” that the United States requires. As a jealous visiting Frenchman once observed: “To the north, you have a weak neighbor. To the south, you have a weak neighbor. To the east, you have fish. To the west, you have fish.” I’d say that comment aptly characterizes America’s overwhelming geographical security.

    In reality, America has only imaginary foreign enemies to “fight.” In fact, a vast and unnecessary military establishment serves only the greed and self-interest of an imperial oligarchy and its parasitic “professional” officer caste, not the true needs of a democratic republic. The United States does not need — and can ill afford — a large standing “professional” — meaning, largely mercenary — military establishment. As predicted by the founders of our republic such as James Madison, such a nemesis will in time — like right about now — result in the death of our republic.

    As for women serving in the military and deliberately getting pregnant (like getting dleiberately raped by their male colleagues?) just to avoid service in combat, I remember many men from my generation — like Five-Deferment Dick Cheney — who deliberately impregnated their civilian wives so that they could claim “head of household” status, thus exempting these heroes from miliary service in Vietnam where I found myself languishing for a year-and-a-half. So why single out today’s women in the military for such defamatory obloquy? The normal tooth-to-tail ratio — meaning, combat personnel relative to support personnel — offers plenty of room for women, pregnant or otherwise, to serve in the military, freeing up the “real” men to go slay peasant dragons in Iraq and Afghanistan and possibly soon, Libya.

    In saying this, I do recognize that many of the traditional military support billets now go to for-profit civilian mercenary contractors, but still, the military can’t outsource all of its support requirements, so patriotic American women desperate for some kind of paying job ought to get an opportunity to serve if they so wish. Not everyone in the U.S. military serves in combat or needs to do so. Furthermore, since American men, by and large, want no part of penurious indentured servitude as either “racketeers for capitalism” (General Smedley Butler) or “the dupes of statesmen and the tools of conquerors (Civil War veteran Ambrose Bierce), America should consider itself lucky to have enough desperately poor women, pregnant or otherwise, willing to give their fuck-up-and-move-up officers someone to order around doing what doesn’t need doing except to further bureaucratic careers in service to the corporate oligarchical collective.

    Once more, I realize that some may consider my remarks harsh, but I mean no personal offense. I spent almost six years of my young life in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club, a.k.a., the United States Navy, the last eighteen months of that in Vietnam, and I wouldn’t recommend the experience to a single other American, at least those who have alternative options in life. The American people have few, if any, greater enemies right now than the United States military establishment, now arrayed against them in service to their corporate and political oppressors, which now include our increasingly militarized police forces. The time has come for a severe demobilization of the U.S. military, shoot-on-sight police, and deep-state “security” apparatchiks. The time has come for a true “peace dividend.”

    Finally, if American men in the U.S. military truly resent American women in the military getting prengnant, then U.S. military men should stop raping so many of them, or at least make abortiion freely and readily available to their colleague/victims. And it would help, as well, if U.S. military officers would stop covering up for the rapes and persecuting our servicewomen who testify against her fellow military rapists. But ridding ourselvs of most of our needless and victory-less military establishment would ameliorate most of our “insecurity” problems.

    There. I think I’ve pretty much said what I wanted to say about this article.


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