Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Best NCO I Ever Had

February 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Bras & Boots, Most Recent Posts

There is a photograph (nice, framed, 14×18) that always hangs on my wall, wherever I go. It’s really difficult to see what the picture is, so people always go in really close to look at it. It’s difficult to see because it is a close shot of two people in camo. So, when someone new is in my house, they generally go through a couple of the same stages that others have gone through when looking at this photograph. It’s a universal experience, and I get a kick out of it every time.

Them: “What’s this picture of?”
(then, before I can answer)
Them: “Is that you?”
(then, before I can answer)
Them: “Is she pregnant?”

And then I get to tell them about the best NCO I ever had, SGT Asuncion .

She is, indeed, 7 months pregnant in the photo taken at a Field Exercise in 2002 or 2003. But, she was 8 months pregnant when she worked the rail load. And maybe 6 months pregnant during our night vision goggle HMMWV training. When the axle on the HMMWV broke while we were going 50 mph . . .

People don’t know that pregnant women can be in the military. Sometimes they don’t even know that we carry weapons (and that’s when you look at them with scorn and disbelief, by the way). So I love my picture that shows the hardest-working, most professional NCO I ever worked under.

But there’s a reason that this high quality photograph hangs in my house, and not in the hallway to the orderly room where it used to hang.

After we got back from the field exercise, I took the photographs of various squads doing various training, and had them blown up down at the PX. We had a bunch of old photos in nice frames along the hall to the orderly room, and I thought it would be great to replace them with photos of current soldiers. One of the photos was of myself and SGT Asuncion – she had used camo to paint a smiley face on her very pregnant belly.

About a week after I hung the frames, I noticed that the picture of SGT Asuncion was gone. When I asked my PLT SGT what happened, he said “don’t you browbeat me”.

I don’t know about you, the reader, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never browbeaten any PLT SGT, or 1ST SGT, or even squad leader for that matter. Evidently this was a real sensitive area. I asked why the photo had been taken down, and he replied that there had been ‘complaints’. I asked, since I had paid for the photography, that I be given the picture. He allowed it.

A week or two later, one of the other NCOs was talking to me about the picture. He didn’t realize that I had anything to do with it (even though I had been in the picture), and he was actively seeking my agreement that the photograph was ‘unprofessional’. Now, this man knew SGT Asuncion , and had to know that she was one of the most professional NCOs in our company. But, evidently, having an exposed midriff (most of her belly was covered by the maternity BDUs) made the photo unprofessional. I told him I didn’t agree. I told him that working your ass off when 8 months pregnant was just about the most professional thing I’d ever seen.

Of course, if she hadn’t been at that field exercise due to her pregnancy, her professionalism wouldn’t have been questioned, right?



8 Responses to “The Best NCO I Ever Had”
  1. Sierra says:

    I completely disagree. The picture is unprofessional, and completely inappropriate to have hanging in the workplace, because of SGT Asuncion exposing her belly– pregnant or not. I’m not saying there was anything wrong with the two of you having fun and taking the picture, or you hanging it in your house, but it has no place in a military setting.

  2. Connie Reeves says:

    I understand your sentiments about the pregnant NCO and I’m sure the photo was a great one. I’m a retired Army officer, and was pregnant twice (1980-81 and 1983-84). So, first of all, I am practically incredulous that anyone today, 30 years later, would be astonished that military women can be pregnant. Or that they use weapons. I was in the first class of the Women’s Army Corps that learned to shoot the M-16 and that was in 1976. Nearly 40 years ago. I think some of the assumptions in your comment, therefore, are really outdated and not based on a true understanding of what the average American knows or believes. We have seen two generations of women now go to war: the Persian Gulf group in 1990-92, and now the Iraq/Afghanistan group for the past decade. Secondly, as a formerly pregnant soldier (company commander, platoon leader, executive officer, and battalion S-2), I strongly disagree with you about the photo with a pregnant woman in uniform and a bare midriff. Working while pregnant is certainly professional, no argument there. But a uniform is meant to worn in only one way, with certain exceptions allowed for taking off an outer garment and leaving a t-shirt exposed, etc. There are regulations that describe how to wear each and every uniform. If a pregnant female in uniform could be photographed and have that hang on the company’s hallways, then why not a male in uniform with an earring or two, that he may be allowed to wear off-duty but not on? Why not any combination of uniform pieces, or flip-flops with the uniform? The photo did project professionalism. If you wanted to project the professionalism of this pregnant NCO, then you should have taken a photo of her while doing one of her stellar tasks. You are trying to conflate two very different things into one: a professional NCO who happens to be pregnant, and a photo of her showing that she is pregnant, into a photo of a professional pregnant NCO. The logic does not follow and it is now wonder to me that the photo was removed.

  3. Mkssalsa says:

    I hate to break it to you, but even now, 30 years later, the average American really still doesn’t know women in the military can be pregnant, can be in the military, can carry weapons, etc. Most people – YES, RIGHT NOW – cannot believe I’ve made four deployments, have a baby, have a husband who is willing to be a stay-at-home dad while I serve, etc. The average American is sadly ill-informed and backward. Yes, still. In JUST THE LAST TWO YEARS I have experienced:
    -People asking if my uniform is a costume (or if I’m a nurse, flight attendant, etc.)
    -People asking what the maternity uniform is (why is my shirt untucked?! We really have maternity uniforms!? Women can have babies in the Navy!? What do you mean you will work right up until you go into labor?!)
    -People horrified/shocked to find that I’ve served on ships. And so have lots of other women! We have women in the Navy!?
    -People horrified/shocked to find that I’ve been to Iraq (and yes, carried weapons there!)
    -Military Police in base housing refuse to believe that my personal firearms are mine, registered in my name, not my husband’s. And that I shoot them. And enjoy going to the range. They kept insisting I couldn’t register them, my husband would have to. This was after taking ten min to convince them (even with ID) that I was the active duty member, not my husband.
    -An couple in a grocery store actually walked up, patted me on the cheek and asked if I was a nurse or a secretary (because that’s all women can do still, apparently).
    -A 40-ish man asked where I could possibly have gotten all those ribbons, because I couldn’t have actually gone anywhere or done anything to earn them.
    -Every time I tell someone that women make up about 15-25% of the service (depending on branch, etc.) they are completely shocked and tell me they thought there were maybe a few hundred of us total.

  4. Kayio Austin says:

    People are threatened by what they do not understand. A woman is a complex being, as we are givers of life, and why would we not also be defenders of life. The male species is not born with an automatic protect and defend gene that women are not equipped with as well. A woman doing a job in the military is a miracle in and of itself, a pregnant woman going above and beyond the call of duty is award worthy. Maybe the photo was offensive because it is physical proof that there are some women that do not pull the gender favor not even in pregnancy and that they are just as dedicated to their job performance in the military as their male counterparts, regardless of physical challenges of being a woman.

  5. Former Mom in Combat Boots says:

    Interesting story and glad the writer has so much admiration for her former (then pregant) NCO. Certainly she was in awe of her dedication to “the mission” rather than a goofy picture of her belly exposed and decorated with a smiley face. I wouldn’t have done it (or displayed the photo at work), but that’s me. Like some of you point out, I’d rather see a photo of a obviously pregnant soldier (wearing her uniform according to regs) and being a soldier. My first daughter was born while I was active duty and back then we didn’t have pregnancy PT and your profile was “at your own pace.” Well, I (too) continued to do PT with my company until the day I delevered. Had to wear those awful pregnancy BDUs (flared out like a tent) and my jump boots. My male counterparts constantly asked what was “wrong” with my BDU top and “Where are the pockets?” – LOL. Throughout my career, people were always shocked to hear I was a soldier “because you look like a girl.” Even all these years later, people tell me (and my daughters) “Thank your husband/father for his service.” Much has changed and some has not. 😀

  6. Michelle says:

    I’m active duty Navy and for almost 11 years now. I’ve also been pregnant and worked until I began to “show.” I have a very hazardous job and shouldn’t have been working in that environment in the first place, however men and some other women will put you in the position to feel like you have to “prove” something. Though it is nice to say “yeah I worked while I was pregnant”, it is risky depending on your job. Thinking back on it I could’ve lost my son trying to prove something. On the other hand, people do tend to take things a little too seriously, it is just a picture. Ok work seems to think it’s not professional, take it down, get over it. No matter what someone is always gonna find a reason to complain and you can never please everyone. It is what it is. I like the picture but the “guy” next to me may not, it is what it is.

  7. v says:

    Ever seen a picture of SGT Daddy and his new born, or in uniform, blouse off, all messed up with kids hanging all over him after he comes home from work? Same diff. Or maybe you should’ve put a pic of women in the cotton fields pregnant, carrying a baby on their back, better yet, a pregnant WWII widow working in the factories…

  8. Naia says:

    Well, why make a big deal out of it? Women do what they have to…they have children and do loads of things they don’t get credit for… I was active duty, guard and then reserve…I really didn’t think of it as anything that extraordinary! I was pregnant and working til about 8 or 9 months…I had to as a temp floor RN. When I was in the military…they really did not condone single women or pregnant women…seemed there was a real sexist treatment of women in the 70’s and 80’s. I think the military is less sexist nowadays but I may be wrong! I also saw a lot of men taking care of babies by themselves. This always bothered me. What kind of women ran off and left their infants with men? I guess there are all kinds of stories to share about women in the military. I have a few more but you might not really want to hear them…they are about being treated as a sex object and putting up with sexual harrassment in the military. How many women have been through this abuse?

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