Sabbaticals may help military keep women in ranks

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So far, Sarah has chosen to stay in. “I love being a Marine, I love the people I work with,” she said. But not long ago, Rachel said she also is weighing similar issues.

It’s not an uncommon dilemma. More often than men in the military, women choose their family over service.

The sabbatical program is one way of encouraging women to stay, said Ferguson, and Army leaders agree.

Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said the program is under review and has not yet been approved by the Army secretary. A decision is expected early in the year, and if approved, the program would start out small.

It will give men and women “an intermission period to meet their personal needs,” said Bromberg. He said a woman who decides to have a family would be able to stay home with the child or someone else might need time to take care of an ailing parent.

“We want to explore it, and see if we can help out those who need help and may be of the type of person who wants to come back and serve,” he said. “It will be open to everybody, but certainly, the example of a female soldier or couple that have a child and want to have time at home - that’s the goal as well.”

That plan worked for Overstreet, even though she was skeptical at first.

“I thought, why in the world would I leave for a year? It didn’t make sense to me. But, when I sat down and thought about it, it was such an opportunity to be able to concentrate on my health and be at home. It was a blessing.”

Three months into the sabbatical she got pregnant, and her daughter was 3-months-old when she went back to work at the academy.

“I think it’s a fantastic program for people who are on the bubble … People who are wondering if they can do both,” she said. “If they want to concentrate on family or just want to concentrate on going to school - they don’t have to make that choice. They can actually take the year to three years off and concentrate on that and know that their job is there and you can come back in right where you left off. And you’re not at risk of losing the career that you have worked so hard at.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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