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Guard official: Breastfeeding airmen violated policy on uniforms

Jun. 1, 2012 - 09:51AM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 1, 2012 - 09:51AM  |  
Staff Sgt. Terran Echegoyen-McCabe left, and Tech. Sgt. Christina Luna breastfeed their babies while wearing their uniforms during a photo session for the Mom2Mom Breastfeeding Support Group.
Staff Sgt. Terran Echegoyen-McCabe left, and Tech. Sgt. Christina Luna breastfeed their babies while wearing their uniforms during a photo session for the Mom2Mom Breastfeeding Support Group. (Brynja Sigurdardottir Photography)
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Two Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., airmen who donned their uniforms for a photo session in support of Breastfeeding Awareness Month violated a policy that forbids military members from using the uniform to further a cause, promote a product or imply an endorsement, said Capt. Keith Kosik, spokesman for the Washington National Guard.

A photo of Senior Airman Terran Echegoyen-McCabe and Staff Sgt. Christina Luna breastfeeding their children in unbuttoned airman battle uniforms went viral this week. Echegoyen-McCabe, the mother of 10-month-old twin girls, is pictured with her T-shirt pushed above her bared chest.

The women are both members of the Air National Guard and part of Mom2Mom, the breast-feeding support group that organized the photo shoot. Mom2Mom founder Crystal Scott said the group planned to use the pictures in posters to encourage new and expectant mothers at Fairchild and nearby Spokane to breastfeed.

Most of the images, shot by Washington photographer Brynja Sigurdardottir, feature breastfeeding moms in civilian clothes. Those didn't stir a debate. And the Air Force takes no issue with those, Kosik said.

Hundreds of people expressed support for Echegoyen-McCabe and Luna online. Others said they fully supported women who breastfeed in uniform but that it ought not to have been photographed and posted on the Internet. And some said women should either cover themselves or find someplace private to nurse in or out of uniform.

Echegoyen-McCabe said in a telephone interview Wednesday that she was proud of the photograph. "To me, it feels like I'm doing something amazing in my uniform."

She said she didn't do it to start a debate. The sensation surprised her, she said.

The Air Force has no policy on breastfeeding in uniform. But it does forbid airmen from using the uniform to advance the cause of an outside organization.

"The uniform was misused. That's against regulations," Kosik said. "I want to be very, very clear about this. Our issue is not, nor has it ever been, about breastfeeding. It has to do with honoring the uniform and making sure it's not misused. I can't wear my uniform to a political rally, to try to sell you something or push an ideology. That was our point of contention."

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