Army ‘Working Hard’ to Take Care of Families

Army ‘Working Hard’ to Take Care of Families

Army leaders speak
Photo by: Pete Marovich for AUSA

The Army’s top leaders fielded questions from family members on a variety of issues—from marijuana use to food insecurity to moving household goods—while reassuring them that no matter what the issue, the leaders are there to help.

“Every time we do this, I learn more and more about our Army,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said Oct. 12 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2021 Annual Meeting and Exposition, held at the D.C. convention center. 

“I just ask of our families, if you ever have a problem, bring it up to the chain of command, get it up to us, it could be policy, it could be just execution at a certain level, but we have a program for just about everything in the Army,” he said. “We don’t necessarily … always get it right, but there are a lot of people working hard to take care of families, and we want to make sure we’re doing that.”

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, noting that this was her first time at the AUSA Annual Meeting in years, took a surprise question about marijuana use, explaining that while weed is legal in several states, the Army is “grappling with and sorting through” some instances of positive drug tests, including some cases with prospective soldiers.

“We are running into the fact that many Americans are growing up in states where marijuana is legal,” she said.

Wormuth also explained that soldiers can get waivers if they have legitimate health or religious reasons for not wanting to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but she reminded the audience that the vaccine requirement is a legal order from the secretary of defense.

“It’s so helpful for us to hear directly from families about what their concerns are, whether they’re very specific concerns that we’re able to follow up on in short order or whether they’re about some of these broader policy issues,” Wormuth said. “We value the opportunity to hear directly from you.

A chunk of the 90-minute forum was spent discussing some of the issues that arise during permanent change-of-station moves and delays in receiving household goods. Things are getting better, McConville said, “but we’re still seeing people having problems.”

McConville noted that the supply chain delays and shortages caused across the country by the COVID-19 pandemic have also affected the Army’s ability to enforce standards for moving companies. However, he and Lt. Gen. Duane Gamble, the Army deputy chief of staff for logistics, beseeched families to file inconvenience claims so the Army can hold industry accountable for excessive delays.

Addressing a question about food insecurity among the troops, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston acknowledged that some soldiers had indicated as much in recent surveys. He noted, however, that it could be more an issue of educating soldiers on how to budget their money so that feeding their families is not secondary to buying a snazzy car or a boat.

“If a soldier needs food, we have food, we’re going to get them food, but we also want to help them manage their money,” Grinston said during the forum.

The leaders also addressed questions about access to behavioral health care, the Exceptional Family Member Program, recreational programs, the Army Emergency Relief Fund, domestic violence and spousal employment.

“When you bring us difficult things, that’s what we do,” Grinston said. “That’s what makes our Army great. We may not have the answers, but we take those hard, difficult questions on and we don’t forget about it, and we’ve had those at these family forums.”

— Gina Cavallaro