Families ‘Critical’ to Soldier Morale, Readiness
The Army has a moral and ethical obligation to take care of its soldiers and their family members, an installation and family programs experts said.
“If you think about the morale and readiness of soldiers and what maintains their will to fight our nation’s wars, the families are really critical to that for our active component as well as our reserve component,” said Col. Steve Lewis, chief of family programs for the Installations Services Directorate.
About 60% of service members have families, and having access to resources is an essential part of maintaining their readiness, Lewis said while speaking on a panel about soldier and family readiness at a recent one-day Hot Topic event hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army’s Institute of Land Warfare.
Paul Burk, director of family and morale, welfare and recreation programs at the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, said the Army recognizes the stressors soldiers and families face, ranging from finances to physical, emotional and mental well-being.
While needs can vary from one installation to the next, the Army’s family and MWR programs—the “foundation of the Army”—provide a sense of community, support and services to help soldiers and families with readiness, he said.
“When we think about what the future requires, it’s important for us to sometimes look through the lens of the past,” Lewis said. Commanders are a critical part of readiness, since they understand what soldiers and families need, what resources are available, and how to connect them, he said.
Lewis said communities extend beyond an installation’s borders, and both internal and external communities are integral to support for soldiers and families. About 70% of service members live off-post, he said.
“We know that it is our people—our soldiers, civilians and family members—that will always be the Army’s most precious asset,” said Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, assistant chief of staff for installation management and one of the day’s keynote speakers.