Army women have to be tough, but many of them also need space in their lives to be caring mothers to young children. It can be a challenge to balance the two, but the job got a little easier for Third Army soldiers with the opening of a new nursing center at Patton Hall.
New and expectant mothers were standing alongside commanding officers when the ribbon was cut Friday on the new Third Army Nursing Center, also known by the acronym "the TANC."
"We thought that was an appropriate name," said Lt. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commanding general of the Third Army, just before cutting the pink-and-blue ribbon across the door to the new center.
Located at the Third Army headquarters at Shaw Air Force Base, the martial-sounding TANC will provide space for pregnant soldiers to take a break, chat with other female officers or Army spouses, and especially give new moms a set area to breastfeed.
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"This will be a big uplift for mothers," said Lt. Col. Stacie Hatten, a member of Sisters in Arms, a group of women soldiers who first proposed the need for a nursing center on base. "Until now they've had to nurse in locker rooms or restrooms, areas that are not locked. This will be a space for nursing mothers."
Hatten has two children of her own, "and I wish I'd had this room," she said.
Besides a comfortable seating area, TANC is equipped with a microwave, refrigerator and storage cabinets that give nursing moms better ways to sanitize their funnels and bottles.
Capt. Joy Byer is a month away from giving birth to her first child. She said having a nursing center at Patton Hall makes it easier to be an Army mom.
"We need a facility like this," she said. "The TANC can help us carry out our military duties and our duties as mothers and spouses."
Byer said she is currently the furthest along of any of the expectant mothers on base that she knows of and said appreciates the chance to take some weight off her tired feet at the end of the day.
"When you're pregnant as a soldier, the further along you are, your hours are shortened," Byer said, but noted a shortened day for a soldier is still about eight hours.
The Third Army currently has approximately 200 women soldiers based at Shaw and about 800 men. Eight soldiers and three civilians on base are currently pregnant, and another half-dozen moms have nursing children.
Opening the center puts Shaw on the cutting edge of women's services in the military. The TANC will be the first private nursing area on any military base in South Carolina, but that doesn't bother Brooks.
"We don't mind being first," he said, citing the Third Army's motto, "Third Goes First."