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Military Families Share QOL 'Best Practices'

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2000 – Nearly 100 military families shared ways to improve military quality of life during the first Military Family Forum here May 31.

Splitting into roundtable discussion groups, service members and spouses focused on four areas: housing and exchanges, health and human services, community and family services, and economic well-being. They reviewed programs under way at various locations and reported on those they found to be “best practices.”

The families suggested the services and military communities consider:  

  • Conducting family symposiums where military leaders and families can discuss installation needs.
  • Offering financial management training at service members' first duty station and assigning unit financial specialists to help service members cope with money trouble.
  • Forming family support groups that include spouses and single service members, whose parents could contact the group for news of their children.
  • Regionalizing family support programs to be more cost effective and to eliminate redundancy.

These best practices can be accomplished within current resources, rules and regulations, said Bernard Rostker, undersecretary for personnel and readiness. The four programs cited were selected from many discussed, he added.

"We have a lot more in the bank to look at," he said at a press conference following the forum. The vehicle for doing that, he noted, is DoD's quality of life executive committee.

Kelli Kirwan, wife of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Kirwan of Camp Pendleton, Calif., said calling for family symposiums at base level highlights the need for communication between family support officials and military families. Serving as the families' moderator and spokeswoman, she also said financial management is an issue for service members, particularly those in junior grades.

Training in this area at first duty stations, in addition to what's offered at basic training, would be a great benefit, she said. As for unit financial specialists, service members might feel more comfortable talking to some of their senior enlisted counterparts rather than outsiders, she said.

Kirwan pointed out that Marines' families at Camp Pendleton have set up an 800 number as part of their family support group. When extended families around the country want to touch base when their sons and daughters are deployed, they can call a volunteer to hear the same information spouses and children hear.

The forum was a great opportunity for family members from all the services to share information, Kirwan said. There's a great deal done at the grassroots level by volunteers, many of whom are service members' spouses, Kirwan said. "We are called upon to do things in the arena of family support and family readiness."

In the last two years, Kirwan said, she's seen increased concern by military leaders at all levels for families well being. "They are ready to listen to the issues to see what they can do."

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Related Sites:
DoD Family Forum Web site [link no longer available]
Remarks as Delivered By Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Mrs. Janet Langhart Cohen at the 1st Annual Military Family Forum, Opening Session, The Pentagon, Washington, DC, Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Related Articles:
AFPS News Article: Mrs. Kirwan Goes to Washington: A DoD Cinderella Story
AFPS News Article: Cohen, Shelton, Top Leaders Hear How It Is
AFPS News Article: Forum Lets Families Tell It Like It Is
AFPS News Article: DoD Forum to Spotlight Military Families

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