SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, — Army civilian personnel specialist Tracey Leven recalls the time she tried to use a breast pump to express milk in a military office years ago. Instead of “breast pump in use,” she was required to put a sign on the door reading, “occupied.” That didn’t stop two male soldiers from using their keys to open the locked office.
“They were surprised. I was covered up, so there wasn’t any kind of issue,” said Leven, a 29-year-old who works at the 3rd Army headquarters here in South Carolina. Now the Luling, Texas, native said she is expecting her second child and looks forward to the privacy the new room will provide.
With Mother’s Day on Sunday, she and other women civilian employees, women in uniform and mothers visiting this command headquarters here say they’re pleased they won’t have to hide in an office or rest room if they want to nurse or express breast milk to give to an infant later.
The high-tech 3rd Army headquarters at Shaw Air Force Base is one of the rare U.S. military installations where a decidedly low-tech lactation room has been exclusively set aside for mothers.
“I am excited and happy about the idea of this room, because I didn’t have the best-case scenario” last time, said Leven, who also is an Army spouse.
The women are celebrating the room as a small victory in an overwhelmingly male-dominated military.
The room — named the “Third Army Nursing Center” — blends in with other offices along a central hallway. It’s outfitted with privacy screens, chairs, tables, a refrigerator, freezer and microwave. Storage cabinets, a sink and a place to post information are available.
“I’m hoping now, more women will nurse,” said Army spouse Dianna Troyer as she cradled 1-month-old David.