Improving Family Readiness Helps Build Army Readiness

Improving Family Readiness Helps Build Army Readiness

Patty Barron speaks
Photo by: Pete Marovich for AUSA

Military families are ready to take on a more vocal, active role in military family readiness, Patricia Barron, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said during a military family forum at the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2021 Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Families want a voice. They want a loud voice on how to navigate that journey ... given the parameters of military life,” said Barron, a military spouse of over 30 years who previously served for nine years as AUSA’s director of Family Readiness. This truly is a system of support. We need everyone involved.” 

Family readiness, just like unit readiness, is an essential part of operational readiness, experts said during the Oct. 12 forum. 

The concept of family readiness originates from a 2012 DoD Instruction and champions military family well-being through various services, including health, finances, career, social and community services.

The inaugural Health of the Army Family Report, released this fall, revealed that soldiers and their families struggled with mental health during the pandemic, said Laura Mitvalsky, director of health promotion and wellness at the Army Public Health Center.

“Two-thirds of the married or partnered soldiers reported their partner spouse was having difficulty coping as a result of the pandemic. Half the soldiers with at least one child in their household report their child or their children appeared to have emotional, behavioral and other difficulties,” Mitvalsky said. “The health and satisfaction of our Army families today directly impact the future fighting force of our nation.”                              

The Army is making several changes to improve the quality of life of its soldiers and families, including making the Exceptional Family Member Program more user-friendly for families, said Col. Todd Yosick, deputy director of the Quality of Life Task Force and chief of family programs in the office of the deputy Army chief of staff for installations, or G-9. “The Army is aggressively working to improve this program,” Yosick said, because it “is a key part of our Army's No. 1 priority: people.”                

Looking to the future, it is vital to keep prioritizing the voices of military families, Barron said. 

“Because we are members of this community, we know the challenges and what this life brings. We lived them, and we want to make it easier for the generations that come after us,” Barron said. “So, let's work together. We must be innovative in our thinking and not bogged down by bureaucracy. And most importantly, we must trust our families by listening to them and providing opportunities to make their voices heard.” 

— Karli Goldenberg