Army Leaders: Readiness Starts With Supporting Soldiers, Families
On the third and final day of the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Exposition that showcased a dizzying array of cutting-edge warfighting hardware and technology, Army leaders hosted a town hall meeting that showcased the service’s most valuable assets: soldiers and their families.
Soldier and family support programs “have a direct impact on the readiness of our Army,” Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning told an audience of several hundred people during the third of three military family forums.
“I view support to soldiers and families, taking care of their needs, entirely through the prism of readiness,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley. “We do it because 60 percent of our force is married; on average, with two children. And if you’re a normal human being, your primary concern is your family.”
For nearly an hour, Fanning, Milley and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey responded to questions on support programs, hitting an array of topics.
For example, Fanning noted that he has put on hold previously planned cuts to Army morale, welfare and recreation programs so that he and Milley can gain a “holistic” view of MWR needs and how they are being met.
With funding getting tighter, Dailey said, reviews are needed to make sure available resources get to the right places.
“We have to be responsible with the resources we have,” he said. “But this leadership is committed to taking care of our soldiers and their families. Our people are what will sustain us into the future.”
Another issue that was addressed was the new blended military retirement system that is coming on line Jan. 1, 2018, with thousands of soldiers facing the choice of moving to the new system or staying with the traditional lump-sum retirement model.
“We have to get this right,” Dailey said. “We have a deliberate plan to train and educate down to the individual soldier level” about options and payouts under both models.
Dailey also noted that spouses can get up to speed through online training modules offered through Defense Knowledge Online, to include calculators for both systems.
On another issue, Dailey said that as the deployment tempo has eased in recent years, the Army has reduced the number of full-time Family Readiness Support Assistants, who work directly with commanders and community resource agencies during unit deployments to coordinate support of family readiness programs and activities.
But commanders continue to have flexibility to bring on the assistants specifically when units deploy, he said, “applying the resources when our soldiers need them.”