Family Forum 1 highlights family programs, suicide prevention, employment 

10/11/2011 1:00 PM 

Lt. Gen. Jack C Stultz (left) and Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter spoke at the ILW Family Forum 1

Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and the Army's new chief of staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, offered somewhat different predictions for the fate of programs for Army families at  AUSA’s Annual Meeting and Exposition Monday, October 10 in Washington, D.C.

“We will not make Army family programs the bill payer for other initiatives,” McHugh declared without promising there would be no cutbacks whatsoever.

Odierno told his audience, “I would not panic.  We do understand the importance of family programs, but we do need to make choices.”  He added that feedback from families would be critical in helping his staff determine which programs are expendable and encouraged families to  provided it.

A similar prediction came from the acting director of the Army National Guard, Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter.  “We are probably going to see some changes in family programs,” he said.  “But…my commitment is that we are not going to reduce the service that we provide to you and to service members.”

An indirect prediction about family programs was offered by Lt. Gen. Jack C Stultz, chief, Army Reserve, Stultz said he is focusing not on future deployments but on preparing an annual contingency force of 25,000  soldiers capable of going anywhere on short notice.  Not only must they be trained, ready and resilent, he added, their families must be ready and resilient and that will require sustained funding and programs.

Asked how the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would affect family programs, Odierno said the federal Defense of Marriage Act limits the family programs available to same sex partners.  For his part, McHugh pledged repeal would not negatively affect the funding or availablilty of family programs.  He said the Defense Department is reviewing repeal’s effect on all the services.

Turning to suicide, Carpenter said at this time last year, 95 National Guard members had committed sucide, but a big effort to deter suicides had cut the number of 67 so far this year.  Still, he said, “I think we’re definitely a less resilient generation,” noting that when he came to his own parents for  advice with problems as young soldier during the Vietnam War, they told him “to suck it up.”   Later, he added, “I do not want anyone to think we are not asking soldiers to seek help.”

Carpenter pointed to the suicide last year of seven National Guard members who had enlisted within the past three months and never been to basic training.  “It’s not the National Guard that has a suicide problem,” he said.  “It’s society at large that has a suicide problem.”  He argued that the Army is charged with having a suicide problem because it has current statistics on suicide while high schools and colleges do not. 

To make soldiers more resilient, he pointed out that as part of the Army’s resilience program, the National Guard has trained hundreds of members down to the squad level to support soldiers and families dealing with mobilization and deployment.

Another much discussed issue was helping soldiers trying to  find employment.    Stultz spoke of the Reserve’s partnership with employers.  “We’ve got over 2,200 employers who have come to us and said, ‘We want to be part of this….,’ he said.   “We’ve got a portal with 700,000 jobs posted on it.”

He reported that Inova Health Care in northern Virginia has widened its own “Military to Medicine”  program to include not only reserve component personnel but soldiers coming off active duty and their spouses.

Recently in Oregon, Stultz said, 15 reserve component soldiers who came to an Army Strong Community Center looking for jobs.  Employment Partnership staff were able to set up interviews and 14 of the soldiers were interviewed and hired in one day. 

Speaking of the National Guard’s employment efforts, Carpenter reported that last year when the 53rd brigade returned from deployment, 39 percent had no jobs waiting.  With the help of the Army reserve, the state, and other programs, he said, “we’ve managed now to whittle that statistic down to something less than 20 percent.”