Two Washington Air Guardsmen at Fairchild Air Force Base have inadvertently sparked a national debate after the two women were photographed breastfeeding their children in uniform.
The crux of the debate centers on two main arguments: First, that the guardsmen, Terran Echegoyen-McCabe and Christina Luna, broke Department of Defense rules regarding wearing their uniform to support a group, ideology or political party. The second argument is the hotly contested issue of public breastfeeding.
On one side of the debate some call the pictures distasteful, even emasculating to the military uniform. On the other side, they say it's beautiful, natural and applaud the guardsmen.
The pictures were taken in support of Mom 2 Mom, a breastfeeding support group founded by military spouses Crystal Scott and Trysta Chavez, whose husbands are currently stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base.
They took pictures of themselves and other moms on base and then enlisted the help of airmen Echegoyen-McCabe and Luna to take pictures for National Breastfeeding Awareness Week in August.
"We wanted to show military women, and this was just supposed to be for Fairchild, show women at Fairchild that you can breastfeed and you can be successful even though you serve our country," Mom 2 Mom founder Crystal Scott said.
But with two pictures of the airmen nursing their children while wearing their airman battle uniforms the debate has spread far beyond the Fairchild main gate, putting Mom 2 Mom into the national limelight, with some going so far as to accuse these military moms of taking pornographic pictures of themselves breastfeeding.
"Comparing it to pornography, and defecating and urinating, it's saddening, it's quite appalling actually," Scott said.
Trysta Chavez is a mom of two kids and the pictures she took have been called pornographic.
"You can see that she has a perfect latch onto the breast and people look at it as I'm trying to expose myself, that's not what I'm trying to do, I'm trying to showcase how beautiful it is," she said, describing the picture she took for the group.
The Washington National Guard and Fairchild Air Force Base explained that what airmen Echegoyen-McCabe and Luna violated Department of Defense regulations.
Captain Keith Kosik, the public affairs officer for the Washington National Guard at Camp Murray, issued a statement Thursday regarding the photos:
"Military regulations prohibit the use of the uniform, title, rank or military affiliation to further a cause, promote a product or imply an endorsement. For example, military members may not wear their uniform to a political rally, a protest or to sell a product. I want to be very clear that our issue is not, and has never been about breastfeeding. Our issue is that the uniform was used by an outside entity to further their cause, and with all of the attention this has received, it appears that they succeeded."
Fairchild AFB spokesman Maj. Randy Bailey had a similar view on the photos.
"There's no issue with breastfeeding or moms in the military breastfeeding at all," Maj. Bailey said. "More the issue was military members wearing their uniform supporting organizations, which we're not allowed to do."
As the photos have gone viral across the Internet, the Mom 2 Mom support group was caught unprepared for the reaction -- both positive and negative -- their pictures elicited.
"It's double sided; we're excited because we're getting our message out but then also you know on the other end of it we weren't expecting this at all so we're kind of unprepared," Chavez said.
"Literally overnight we woke up and it had just skyrocketed, we had phone calls and emails, it was just craziness," Scott said. "This was never meant to be showcased for the whole word to see this is for our community."
While there are a number of detractors weighing in on the group's photos, Scott said there are many people who are supportive of their actions.
"Most of the people are very supportive, it's just you know the whole controversy with uniform and breastfeeding at the same time," she said.
As for whether the pictures are pornographic, Trysta Chavez said there are a lot worse things that people can do in uniform.
"There's people that smoke in their uniform, so really if we want to get down to what is unprofessional there's a lot of places that we could start before breastfeeding," Chavez said.
It's not known yet if airmen Echegoyen-McCabe and Luna will face disciplinary action for misusing the uniform in violation of DoD regulations. The Washington National Guard at Camp Murray said they will most likely use this incident as a teachable moment for all guardsmen.
While the National Guard may use the pictures as a teachable moment for guardsmen, Crystal Scott sees this as a teachable moment far beyond Fairchild Air Force Base.