Steve Brooks | The American Legion – March 11, 2010

When a soldier knows his family is being taken care of, it’s one less worry to deal with and makes focusing on the task at hand a little easier. That is why the U.S. Army has taken several steps to make sure the loved ones left behind have a few less worries of their own.

Maj. Gen. Reuben Jones, commander of Army’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, briefed Legionnaires during the Washington Conference on the Army’s many family-support programs in place. Included in the briefing was an overview on Army OneSource, a Web site dedicated to providing support – via live chat, links to various programs, and online training for financial planning, managing a deployment and battlemind training for spouses. OneSource was created through the Army Family Covenant program.

“The Army Family Covenant has delivered so many different things … Things that, when you served, would have made you say ‘wow,'” Jones said. “This is what our Army has committed.”

Created two years ago under the direction of Army Secretary Pete Geren, Army Family Covenant resulted in the immediate hiring of 703 Family Readiness Support Assistants and directed $100 million to be targeted to Family Readiness Programs at 23 installations most impacted by the troop surge. The Army’s budget for family programs from 2007 to 2009 doubled, and the base request for fiscal year 2011 is $1.7 billion.

Other programs and improvements that were created through the Army Family Covenant are:

Supporting 249 enduring Army National Guard Family Assistance Centers; 
Increasing staffing and funding to hire 1,099 Family Readiness Support Assistants;
Increasing hours of respite care from 16 to 40 for families with exceptional Family members;
Providing 13 New Parent Support home visitors for high-risk families; 
Creating 477 Army Community Service staff positions to meet operational demands and staffing shortfalls; 
Increasing the number of Military Family Life Consultants; 
Establishing Soldier Family Assistance Centers for servicemembers in transition; and
Establishing Army Survivor Outreach Services, a standardized, multi-agency, decentralized approach to improving support for survivors of fallen soldiers.

“It’s important to reach out to our survivors,” Jones said. “Every time I call to them, I passionately say … ‘I’m making the same promise to you that I made to your soldier: That I will never leave a fallen comrade.’ This office keeps that Army promise.”

There also has been a heavy focus on Children, Youth and School (CYS) Services within the Army. There are now 25 states that are members of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, as opposed to 11 in 2008. The compact’s goal, through a variety of methods and programs, is to remove barriers to educational success imposed on children of military families because of frequent moves and deployment of their parents.

The Army has also:

Increased respite child care availability; 
Eliminated CYS registration fees; 
Increased support for warriors in transition families, including no-cost hourly child care to families and caregivers during medical treatment appointments;
Sustained 100 percent Department of Defense Certification for all garrison Child and Youth Programs and achieved current external accreditation for 99 percent of Child Development Centers and 100 percent of school-age programs by national professional accrediting agencies.
Expanded community-based outreach services in 50 states to deployed active, National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers through Operation: Military Kids, Operation Military Child Care and Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood; and
Initiated a comprehensive CYS construction program.

The day care aspect is critical, Jones said.

“An outside agency, about three months ago, issued their report, and they praised our child care as the best in the world. Not the Army. Not DoD. Not America, but the world. That’s because we invest so much money in it,” Jones said. “We want the soldiers, when they are doing their missions, we don’t want them worrying about where (their) kids are staying.”