Pregnant members of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve who are serving on active duty for operational support orders will no longer have their orders automatically cut short at 34 weeks of pregnancy.

Gabriel Camarillo, the Air Force's assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, signed a memo Dec. 20 that authorized pregnant guardsmen or reservists to serve until their active duty orders are complete, or throughout the rest of their pregnancy, whichever comes first.

"This removes a perceived barrier that limited our ability to attract talent and retain talent," Air Force spokesman Col Patrick Ryder said on Tuesday.

The memo also codifies a rule change allowing pregnant guardsmen and reservists, who are on active duty orders for at least 12 continuous months, to get an extended 12 weeks of maternity leave.

The extended maternity leave was originally announced in February 2016. But until the rule change was officially codified in December, the Air Force had been granting waivers to individual airmen, allowing them to take longer leave, said Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske.

Those new mothers also were previously removed from active duty status while they were on maternity leave, Brzozowske said. Now, new mothers will stay on active duty during maternity leave.

Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.

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