173rd Maintenance Group constructs new room for nursing mothers, embraces its extended Kingsley Family

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

The Kingsley family is a regularly referenced part of working at the 173rd Fighter Wing, a small, southern Oregon Air National Guard base. People say it conveys the tight-knit community shared by Airmen who work, raise their families, and often socialize together.

That sense of family includes the Airmen who fill the ranks at the wing, but as Master Sgt. Michael Shirar, the resource advisor for the 173rd Maintenance Group says, it extends beyond that.

“Our Kingsley mothers and their children are part of the Kingsley family,” he said. “We have nearly 500 members in our maintenance group, and really at any given time we have someone who has had a baby or is going to have a baby.”

It brings up something working mothers have coped with for a very long time. Working mothers who breastfeed their new babies need to express breast milk at various times during the work day and finding a place to do that can be really challenging.

The Air Force is working to help new mothers and provided guidance that units need to provide a dedicated space for this purpose. According to the Air Force guidance, unit commanders are required to identify a private area within the unit’s facilities as a lactation area that is lockable from the inside, clean and sanitary, with adequate lighting and comfortable temperatures. Additionally, there must be access to refrigeration, hot and cold water, and electrical outlets.

“It actually states in Oregon law that you are not supposed to use a locker room or a restroom,” said Tech. Sgt. Loretta Meserve, a 173rd Maintenance Group command support staff Airman and mother of two.

When Maj. Richard Schuster, the maintenance squadron commander, learned of the requirement he immediately offered to vacate his office on a moment’s notice to provide such a space for the group’s new moms. It didn’t work. At least one Airman said to him, “I feel completely uncomfortable asking you to use your office for this.”

With that in mind he and several civil engineering professionals set out to find a spot where a dedicated room could be built.

“This is a maintenance hangar, space is always at a premium, and there is no adding onto these buildings in a lot of cases,” said Shirar. “What we came up with was using a part of a break room. It entailed having CE come out add some walls and electrical and essentially add another room.”

Today that space is ready for use after CE made sure the new room met all guidelines from electrical to HVAC, while others furnished it with a microwave, refrigerator, privacy curtains and chairs.

“It’s going to work great,” said Meserve. “We have six, soon-to-be post-partum moms just in the maintenance group alone—and I am one of them.”

“It’s pretty awesome, the way we take care of our folks, the way we take care of each other,” said Schuster.