Monday, July 10, 2017

Can Air Force Academy cadets become parents while enrolled? Apparently so.

Posted By on Mon, Jul 10, 2017 at 12:26 PM

click to enlarge The Air Force Academy's rules may not be evenly applied. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The Air Force Academy's rules may not be evenly applied.

The U.S. Air Force Academy's policy on cadets becoming parents while attending is clear. It's stated on the Academy's website under eligibility rules:
You must have no dependents. Furthermore, if admitted to the Academy, you may not acquire any dependents while a cadet.

This means your marital status must be single, and you must have no children. Dependents include a spouse by marriage, having a birth child, step child, or adopted child whether or not you provide support to said dependent.

If a marriage or paternity/maternity were to occur while a cadet but not be known to Air Force authorities until after graduation, you may be subject to disciplinary or administrative action as an officer.
But now we learn that Cadet Mike Sutton, a senior, is the happy expectant father of a child to be born in December to Amanda Williams, the daughter of former Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Stephen Williams, a 1989 Academy graduate. Stephen Williams left for a new assignment at Pearl Harbor in March after serving as commandant since July 2014, according to his official Air Force biography.

Amanda Williams herself announced this on Instagram, our emphasis added:
Mike and I are proud to announce that there will be 10 little fingers and 10 little toes being added to our family of 5. Yes, it's true there is a little baby growing inside my belly due to make its appearance in December. While this baby was not planned that does not mean it is anything less than a beautiful miracle. We couldn't be more excited and blessed with this little gift from God. We do, however, need to make something clear early on. We are being proactive and meeting all necessary legal requirements to ensure Mike remains a cadet at the Academy which is why it has taken us so long to finally come public with this exciting news. But this is a time to celebrate a beautiful baby who we are so excited to meet in December! Thank you all in advance for your love and support. If you wish to help in any way please don't hesitate to reach out to us, I know Mike and I will really need it as we face this brand new unexpected adventure. ❤❤ #baby #pregnant #blessed #family #boy #girl #surprise #couple #love #engaged #goals #romantic #happy
She also posted a message saying they had rented a new place with more room and "we move in" on August 12. For the record, cadets are required to live on the base. There's no mention of Sutton leaving the Academy.

We asked the Academy about this, including whether the eligibility rules regarding having a child while a cadet were still in place, considering this development. Here's the response from Lt. Col. Timothy Herritage about "how paternity/maternity issues are handled at USAFA":

Female:

When a female cadet presents as pregnant counseling is available. The medical, command, and legal functions provide tailored support for each pregnant on an individual, case by case, basis. Prenatal care initiated.
A pregnant cadet has multiple options including (offered and/or listed in no particular order):
- Resignation
- Apply for administrative turnback (to allow the cadet to have the baby, relinquish parental rights and return to complete cadet tenure) — legal proof of parental relinquishment required prior to return to USAFA

Male:

Paternity issues are also worked on a case-by-case basis. When indications of paternity of are present, a Letter of Notification (LON) for Disenrollment due to Disqualification proceedings are initiated to determine, if by a preponderance of the evidence, the cadet has a dependent. The USAFA/JA Cadet Disenrollment office informs cadet on options, which include:
- Resignation
- Apply for administrative turnback (to relinquish parental rights and return to complete cadet tenure)-legal proof of parental relinquishment required prior to return to USAFA

Otherwise, he declined to comment "on an individual's private life."

We consulted with sources familiar with the situation, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal. They say that apparently the rules are imposed unequally, as male cadets are allowed to stay if they've fathered a child, as long as their names don't appear on a birth certificate and they're not legally considered the father. Women can't remain at the Academy and must take a leave of absence, the sources say.

All of which raises the question of whether the Academy's handling of this issue conforms with the Academy's Honor Code, which prohibits lying, cheating or stealing or tolerating those who do.

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