Panel: Caring for Families Boosts Soldier Readiness

Panel: Caring for Families Boosts Soldier Readiness

Gen. Darryl A. Williams, commanding general of US Army Europe-Africa and commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command, speaks during the AUSA Contemporary Military Forum 4: Landpower in Europe and Africa at AUSA 2023 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (Tristan Lorei for AUSA)
Photo by: Tristan Lorei for AUSA

Ensuring that soldiers and their families can access quality health care is essential to maintaining the Army’s readiness, a panel of leaders said. 

Mission readiness comes down to ready soldiers and families, said Brig. Gen. Mary Krueger, special assistant to the director of the Army staff and 24th chief of the Army’s medical corps. The goal is “making sure that families are getting the care they need so that soldiers can focus on their mission downrange,” she said Oct. 10 during a military family forum at the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2023 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C. 

Soldiers cannot perform at their best if their families aren’t adequately cared for. “Family is the bedrock for the soldier. Family gives their soldier that extra oomph to keep moving, so we have to get it right,” said Jessica Slaughter, a health systems specialist with the Exceptional Family Member Program, which provides a comprehensive approach to services for families with special needs. 

Amid the nationwide health care worker shortage, the Army is turning to virtual care options and traveling clinicians, especially for soldiers and families who live in remote areas. 

“There’s a finite amount of capacity in any health care system,” said Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, director of the Defense Health Agency. “What the pandemic showed us is that we have an opportunity to scale some of our finite resources to virtual, and we’re targeting virtual [interactions with care providers] ... to deliver in remote areas where, for instance, behavioral health [access] is really difficult.” 

The Army also is looking into making lab results for soldiers and their families more accessible. 

“If you need your lab results right now, you have to engage us to get your lab results. Why? Is there not a better way? Other health care systems proactively engage you, and I’m pushing our system and Military Health System Genesis to define access a little bit broader … to [meet] your needs,” Crosland said. 

Effective, quality care for Army families enables soldiers to accomplish their mission. 

“We are here to make sure that the family is taken care of so that the soldier can get after the mission,” Slaughter said. “Keep in mind that families [make] sure that the soldiers can do what they do. When we don't get this right, we are letting down the mission, and we’re letting down the family.”

— Karli Goldenberg