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NEWS | May 2, 2022

First Army Soldier gets big parenting win at Pentagon

By Staff Sgt. Nicholas Brown-Bell 4th Cavalry Brigade

The old military adage goes, “If the Army wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one.” For Major Sam Winkler, this way of thinking simply was not good enough for today’s Army.

Parenthood in the military “should be celebrated and encouraged, and you shouldn’t have to choose between having a career and a family,” Winkler told reporters at the official roll-out of the collection of new Army policies regarding pregnancy, parenting, and postpartum April 21.

Twelve major changes to Army policy, spelled out over a 23-page document signed by Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth detailed how Army parents can expect to be treated from now on.

It was not a swift change from idea to enactment, however. Winkler says the process took 15 months from the writing of the initial proposal to Wormuth’s signature last month.

“Her determination, and that of her team, prove that anyone in our Army, with the right motivation and the fortitude to make it happen, can affect change,” Col. Timothy Gallagher, commander, 4th Cavalry Multi-Functional Training Brigade, and Winkler’s commander, addressed her accomplishments at the annual unit ball April 30.

“Sam [Winkler] proves that what we do matters,” Gallagher continued.

Winkler had been working in the Army headquarters office for personnel at the Pentagon when she joined a Facebook group for Army mothers.

She says she was “saddened by how poorly some of our Soldiers were being treated during their pregnancy and postpartum journey.” And she knew something needed to be done.

A social butterfly who regularly refuses to accept credit or accolades for her achievements, Winkler joined forces with several female colleagues to see what they could do. She utilized her extensive knowledge of the active force following her time as a facilitator for the Army’s traveling “Your Voice Matters” initiative to leverage what needed to happen with what could actually be accomplished.

“We got changes because we came to the table with real solutions,” Winkler told reporters at the press event.

“I was one of the core members in charge of writing the directive and one of the main authors of the white paper [government report] that turned into the final directive,” she continued.

Her team worked tirelessly, while continuing to excel in their individual military assignments, some, including Winkler, even making permanent change of station moves during the process. All that hard work finally paid off, when Winkler and her team arrived at the Pentagon the week of the signing and got to meet the senior Army leaders who blessed off on their ideas.

Standing with Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, and, of course, Secretary Wormuth, Winkler said she felt amazing knowing that soldiers would finally be receiving necessary assistance through policy changes that she helped create.

“Taking selfies with all those people, making the Sergeant Major of the Army constantly laugh, just seeing the culmination of our work all the way at the top of the Army, really made me thankful for our team,” Winkler discussed of arriving in Washington, D.C.

“We knew we weren’t going to stop until we saw change. It took time, but that’s not what’s important-it got done.”

When asked what she would tell Army parents who feel more needs to be done, she responds, “These directives take us in the right direction. Are we done? Absolutely not. But, hopefully, these changes help get us where we need to be.”

Her advice to those who want to see more change mirrors her commander’s: “Anyone can do it, if you put the work in. Propose actions that can truly be taken, and not just lofty goals with no plan. We just happened to be the ones to do it this time.”

Winkler currently serves as the Brigade human resources director for 4th Cavalry Multi-Functional Training Brigade.