The Washington Air National Guard says two nursing mothers were wrong to be photographed in uniform while breast-feeding their babies.
The photos were posted on the Internet by a group at Fairchild Air Force Base that supports breast-feeding mothers. The group, Mom2Mom, said the photos were meant to promote World Breast-Feeding Week in August.
"We're just showing moms can breast-feed their children in any kind of uniform," said Trysta Chavez, who co-founded the group with Crystal Scott at the base outside Spokane.
Mom2Mom has no conflict with military regulations and is not trying to change them, Chavez said.
Washington Air National Guard spokesman Capt. Keith Kosik said it's a violation of regulations to use the uniform to promote a civilian cause.
He said the two nursing mothers likely will not be disciplined for the photos but that the incident would be used as an opportunity for education.
The military has no rules specifically regarding public breast-feeding while in uniform. The real issue is that servicemembers are not allowed to use the uniform to further a civilian cause, Kosik said.
Chavez, 23, is the wife of a U.S. Air Force airman at Fairchild, and is the nursing mother of two small children. She and Scott founded Mom2Mom to promote breast-feeding among women on the base.
They arranged for photos of the two Fairchild service members and mothers, Terran Echegoyen-McCabe and Christina Luna, breast-feeding their babies while wearing their Washington Air National Guard uniforms.
Neither of those women was immediately available for comment.
Echegoyen-McCabe told The Spokesman-Review newspaper she did one interview before she was ordered to stop by her superior officers.
"They ordered me not to speak to the media," she told the newspaper.
But the photos had already been posted on a Facebook page and quickly went viral, causing a stir around the world.
"It's sad that this is such an issue," Chavez said. "It's a taboo really."
Chavez and Scott hope the photos will encourage more women to breast-feed, including in public. The photos were taken by Brynja Sigurdardottir, a military spouse at Fairchild.
"They were tastefully done," Chavez said. "We wanted them to be nice."
Chavez could not say if it was more difficult for women in the military to breast-feed their children, but the photos are intended to encourage female servicemembers to do so.
"It is possible," Chavez said.
The Mom2Mom group at the base has about 120 members, mostly spouses of military members, but about 10 of the members are either in the Air Force or the Air Guard, Chavez said.
Fairchild is home to the National Guard's 141st Air Refueling Wing and the U.S. Air Force's 92nd Air Refueling Wing.