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If you would like to share examples of familial status discrimination in the military, please send an email to  Please indicate whether or not you wish to remain anonymous.  Here is a template to go by, but you may provide as little or as much information as you like.  All fields are optional.  It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyways...  If anything about your story (location, name of operation, etc) would reveal classified information, either exclude that information or just keep the story to yourself.

  • Do you wish to remain anonymous?  Yes/No

  • Name - If you want to be anonymous, please provide a username.

  • Rank/Grade - You can be specific (SSgt/E-5), generic (officer, enlisted) or leave it blank.

  • Branch of Service

  • Month/Year of Incident

  • Location

  • Description of Events

  • Substantiating Information - If you are aware of publications, policy letters, etc that facilitate discrimination based on familial status, please provide a copy.

MSGT(R) DALE NYHUS (7 years Army, 17 years Air Force)

Mid 1990's, Fort Richardson, Alaska.  My platoon had finished a field exercise, and we were back at the barracks cleaning up and turning in our gear.  It was discovered that a smoke grenade was missing.  As part of the effort to locate the item, our rooms were "inspected" (ransacked would be more accurate).  It was never found.  Fast forward a few months...  I'm visiting my Team Leader, who lives in family housing.  We go into his garage and there are four smoke grenades sitting on a shelf in plain sight.  I asked him, "Aren't you worried they'll see that?"  He replied, "We don't have to worry about inspections like you guys.  We only get inspected if there's probable cause."

Year 2000, Fort Carson, Colorado.  My unit deployed to Bosnia, and while we were gone, the barracks were going to be renovated.  That would take longer than the deployment, which created the conundrum of where to put us when we got back.  The idea of giving us BAH until the project was complete was discussed, and quickly shot down.  Instead, leadership put us in a building which had been condemned because it was too unsafe to work in!  Most rooms had from four to eight people in them, with each person having maybe 100 sq ft (including space used for bed and wall locker).  The bathroom was communal, and there was one urinal with a stuck valve, so it would run continuously.  As luck would have it, its drain was plugged, so it spilled over onto the floor.  And as luck would have it, the drain in the floor was also clogged, so the whole bathroom filled up with piss-water, which then ran out into the hallway and under people's doors.  This situation went on for several months, and leadership knew about it.  There was even a two-star General who did a walkthrough, yet we still had to live there.  Proof that this is considered adequate living conditions for service members without dependents.

2007, Yokota Air Base (AB), Japan.  I had a host-nation maintenance worker escorted by a female Airman enter my dorm room without consent.  I had flown the night prior and was asleep in bed.  There was a knock at the door, but they immediately inserted the key and opened the door without waiting for a response.  As they were entering, I told them to wait, but the maintenance worker dismissively said "I just need to check the thermostat," and they continued to enter.  When I brought this to the attention of my First Sergeant, he replied irritably, "If you want privacy, move off base!"  Now imagine if they had entered family quarters, woke a sleeping spouse, and continued to enter despite her objections.  Heads would roll!  But no-one gives a damn if it's a member without dependents.

2011, Yokota AB.  A fellow Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO) had participated in a dorm inspection the previous day.  He described to the rest of the office what was found and in whose rooms it was found in.  He mentioned a female Airman who had a couple of vibrators in her night stand, and though I don't recall his exact words, he slandered her character by insinuating she was a sexual deviant.  I mention this incident because it demonstrates just how invasive our policies are on the privacy of members without dependents.  It also demonstrates that the people entrusted with conducting these inspections do not receive training about what is and is not appropriate.

2012, Little Rock Air Force Base (AFB), Arkansas.  Shortly after arriving to the base, I went to the Housing office to see what my on-base options were.  As a single Master Sergeant, the only housing I was eligible for was a two-bedroom duplex with a car port.  The unit they offered was old, small, and dingy.  I knew there were newer, bigger units sitting empty, so I asked:

  • Me:  "Could I get a family housing unit if I paid rent equivalent to with-dependent housing allowance?"

  • Housing Rep:  "No, those units are reserved for members with dependents."

  • Me:  "Doesn't the Fair Housing Act prohibit discrimination based on familial status?"

  • Housing Rep:  "Military housing isn't governed by the Fair Housing Act."

  • Me:  "The Fair Housing Act applies to housing owned by the federal government.  Your company has a 50-year contract to manage on-base housing, but it is still owned by the federal government."

  • Housing Rep:  "We are exempted from that."

  • Me:  "Do you know what regulation that is in?  I would like to read it for myself."

  • Housing Rep:  "It's not in a regulation; it's in our closing documents, and they're not accessible to the public."

Not satisfied with that response, I asked to have her supervisor follow up with me.  A couple days later, I received a call, and this time I was told that privatized housing companies are not allowed to accept more in rent than the member receives in BAH.  And since the rent for those units was more than my BAH, I could not live there.  Regardless of which "excuse of the day" they used, the Housing office was breaking the law because they:

  • refused to rent after the making of a bona fide offer because of familial status,

  • refused to negotiate for the rental of a dwelling because of familial status,

  • made unavailable and denied a dwelling because of familial status,

  • discriminated in the privileges of rental of a dwelling because of familial status, and

  • represented because of familial status that a dwelling was not available for inspection when it was in fact available.

2017, Travis AFB, California.  I submitted a package for the Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award.  This award is sponsored by the NAACP and recognizes service members who:

  • enthusiastically support civil rights;

  • distinguish themselves by promoting the tenets of civil/human rights and equal opportunity;

  • display exceptional character by promoting the development or advancement of all DoD personnel;

  • contribute to the equal opportunity for advancement based on merit;

  • believe in and practice the tenets of a democratic society, including the Declaration of Independence - the belief that all people are created equal, and that freedom is a right that must be protected at all times;

  • assist in overcoming discrimination and elimination of barriers that hinder equal opportunity;

  • support the full integration and promotion of all DoD personnel;

  • create opportunities that support and contribute to the mentorship, development, advancement or retention of all personnel consistent with merit principles; and/or

  • create job or training opportunities that support and contribute to the advancement of all Service members.

I was the only member of my unit to submit a package, but it was denied because "It would misalign leadership with DoD policy.”  In other words, I was denied the opportunity to compete for an equal opportunity award because my nomination would put leadership in the awkward position of choosing to stand with policy versus choosing to stand with the law.

**For my civilian readers, I need to explain a couple things before the next testimonial:

1.  High year of tenure (HYT).  In a nutshell, HYT forces you out of the military if you don't make rank before X years of service.  (X is different for each rank.)  This is necessary because there is a constant stream of new recruits coming in, so if service members don't progress through the ranks, then they have to get out or the next generation coming up behind them won't have any vacancies to fill.

2.  Non-judicial punishment (NJP).  Non-judicial punishment is exactly what it says it is... punishment that does not involve the judicial system.  The judicial system consumes a lot of resources (especially time).  NJP gives Commanders the flexibility to resolve issues more quickly.  For example, say a service member gets caught driving drunk.  The Commander can give the member something called an Article 15, which can include things like additional duties after normal work hours, taking away on-base driving privileges, and possibly even a demotion to a lower rank.  The member has the option to refuse the Article 15 and go to court martial, but odds are the member knows he screwed up, so he accepts the NJP because a court martial would almost certainly result in more harsh consequences.

3.  A demotion becomes especially important when the HYT at the lower rank would force the service member out of the service.  For example, a Senior Airman (pay grade E-4) has a HYT of 10 years, and a Staff Sergeant (E-5) has a HYT of 20 years.  So if a Staff Sergeant with 15 years of service gets demoted to Senior Airman, he is already over the HYT at the lower rank and will have to separate from the military.  With all that said, please continue to the testimonial below.

2019, Travis AFB, California.  At the end of an Air Force Sergeants Association meeting, the Base Command Chief (highest ranking enlisted member on the base) asked for questions.  Someone asked about recent changes to HYT.  In his answer, the Command Chief went off on a bit of a tangent and mentioned that sometimes Commanders are reluctant to administer NJP to service members with dependents because HYT at the lower rank would force them out of the service, and that would adversely affect the family members, not just the service members.  It is abundantly obvious from his account that there are two forms of justice in the military: one for those with dependents, and one for those without.  When a service member with dependents gets into trouble, then it's an opportunity for the chain of command to "take everything into consideration" and "tailor the punishment to the circumstances".  But when a service member without dependents gets into trouble, then it's an opportunity for the chain of command to "enforce standards" and "uphold good order and discipline".  Once again, members without dependents are held to a different, more stringent standard.

Throughout my career, I have noticed that when members with dependents need to take care of personal matters (such as taking a spouse or child to a doctor appointment), they typically just let their supervisor know where they're going to be and go do it.  When single people need to take care of personal matters (such as providing access to their apartment so maintenance can be performed), they are often expected to take a day of leave (military lingo for vacation).  This is just another example of how discrimination based on familial status is so deeply ingrained in military culture that many of us don't even think about it.  We don't see it even though it's right in front of our faces all the time.  And the reason we don't see it is because it's right in front of our faces all the time.  We're desensitized to it because it is omnipresent.  We just expect members without dependents to be held to a different standard without even realizing that we expect members without dependents to be held to a different standard.  We just do it because we've always done it.

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