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Mullen Seeks End to ‘Yes-No’ Box on Predeployment Checklists

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2010 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff vowed today to eliminate the “yes-no” box that appears on some predeployment checklists that determines whether a servicemembers’ units can contact their families during deployments.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the audience at the National Guard Bureau Family Workshop and Youth Symposium in New Orleans, La., Aug. 2, 2010. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“There are just too many spouses whose spouse deploys where that box is checked no,” Navy Adm. Mullen said while addressing the National Guard Family Program Volunteer Workshop in New Orleans. “In my time as chairman, I’m going to make that box go away.”

On some predeployment family readiness checklists, servicemembers can opt out of keeping their family members informed about family readiness information, benefits and entitlements.

The eradication of the “yes-no” box will require a joint effort, the chairman said. “This has to be actively pursued from within,” he said, “from the grassroots level up to the commanders so that we can make it go away.”

This effort will be a step toward keeping families better informed, and also will help to close a gap, particularly for Guard and Reserve families who often are far from the support of a military installation, Mullen said, noting that when his wife, Deborah, was visiting a base, a National Guard spouse drove six hours to see her.

The military needs to find ways to deal with that type of isolation, the chairman said.

The military has a plethora of programs aimed at supporting military families, but the number of programs isn’t as important as the quality, Mullen noted. “I don’t need any more programs,” he said. “I need the ones we have to really be working really well.”

Mullen also spoke of the need to provide better support to military children, particularly in the nation’s schools. Training is needed to equip teachers to deal with the emotional impacts of deployments, war, and in some cases, loss, he said. In many cases, teachers are unaware of a student’s military ties until someone actively interacts with them to try and close the gap, he added.

The need for outreach is widespread, Mullen said, citing an example of chaplains reaching out to community churches.

“I would hope that our programs from a military standpoint run in parallel and support community-based programs,” he said.

America will be better able to overcome challenges within the military, particularly on the veteran side, if “we join hands” between the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and communities, Mullen said.

Military leaders also can play a role by reaching out to community members who want to help but don’t always know how to connect with the military, the chairman added.

“There are many, many more things to do,” he said. “While we’ve done a great deal, we cannot rest on our laurels. [We must] stay focused in listening to our families.”


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Navy Adm. Mike Mullen


Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

9/11/2010 9:26:56 AM
I'm glad the Admiral is doing this. Rich from Wisconsin has the right idea. Charles I don't agree with your point of view. There is nothing more frustrating than having a be "opted out" by her well meaning husband only to have her need help from the unit. FRG's can certainly be hotbeds of gossip. However it is better to have that gossip managed in an official manner. Also, for OPSEC purposes it makes more sense to allow the Rear-D to contact the families to invite them to informational meetings than to have the sponsors blabbing details to their anxious families by phone and email, or worse, on Facebook. Having said all of this, I do think that families should be allowed to opt-out of social invitations, and the informational emails that can clutter up FRG email lists.
- Minda, Bragg

9/10/2010 3:58:53 PM
As a former FRG leader I too think the yes/no box needs to go. Soldiers would check the no box without the knowledge of the spouse and then the spouses complain because they are not included. This is just wrong. The interaction among families during deployment is paramount to success. But even more, the continued connection following deployment helps too. The military CANNOT rely on the soldiers to pass info to families during peace time, they just don't do it. When deployment comes the familes don't know who to contact. It just doesn't work - partly why I am "former"
- Theresa, Denver CO

9/10/2010 3:23:58 PM
I like that this box has been included on forms. It is appropriate and polite to allow families of deployed soldier to decide how involved they want to get in their soldier's unit. The Army is always making information available to the soldiers and families, but if the family does not want phone calls or constant contact while their soldier is gone, I feel that should be respected as well.
- Jackie, Ft. Bragg

8/9/2010 7:52:25 AM
Part of the education of the family member by the service member and the military, that is often forgotten, is that casualty notification will NEVER be done by telephone. Command representatives provide families with information on entitlements, benefits, and opportunities to network with other military spouses. They provide disaster support, pre-deployment briefs, tricare updates, redeployment and homecoming dates. This information isn't scary, it is useful! Without the servicemember checking the "yes" box, the initial contact cannot be made, the relationships cannot be developed and yes...the fear of "the phone call" becomes a reality and a terrible disservice to our families. The Marines have a great program, the spouse signs the "opt out" form, but at anytime, they can request to "opt-in". Let's adapt that type of option across the forces!.
- Samantha Hand, Little Creek Virginia

8/3/2010 2:30:44 PM
I have checked that box on several deployments. My reasoning is simple. I do not want anyone trying to contact my family directly while I'm in a combat zone. My wife's first response to getting a phone call from military personnel is to worry that something has happened to me. Emailing newletters and family readiness information is one thing, but I don't trust any direct contact from anyone other than those she's already familiar with and expecting (e.g. unit Spouse's org). Thanks, but no thanks!
- Charles, Washington DC

8/3/2010 10:26:42 AM
Simple solution: Implement the same guidelines as used during retirement out-processing when SBP election is discussed and spouse's physical presence is required to counter-sign the election choice. At that time, ensure all family support benefits are provided to the stay-behind spouse. If necessary, have representatives go to the home to accomodate the family.
- Rich, Wisconsin

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