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Leaders Meet to Improve Family Support Programs

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2007 – When a military family member needs help, the sponsor’s branch of service shouldn’t matter, a top Defense Department officials said here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Family program leaders discuss issues during the 2007 Family Readiness Summit. Photo by Fred W. Baker III

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

Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, addressed a group of about 100 top military family program leaders from across the services who gathered for the 2007 Family Readiness Summit here. The group hopes to brainstorm ways to break down interservice bureaucratic barriers that sometimes prevent military family members from getting the help they need.

Any family member who walks into one of the 700 family readiness centers nationwide should be helped, regardless of branch of service, Hall said.

They (the center) should say, “You are an American trooper or the family member of an American trooper -- come in and you’re welcome. Sit down and we’ll help you,” Hall said.

Each of the services, active and reserve component, sent key decision-makers for family programs to the summit. Some community service organizations such as the Red Cross and veterans services also sent representation.

Hall will send the results of the summit to the service secretaries and reserve component chiefs asking for their support in implementation.

This is the third such summit since 2001, said James L. Scott III, director of individual and family policy on Hall’s staff. He said that this is the best way to collaborate on behalf of servicemembers and their families.

“It’s extremely powerful,” he said. “Any time we get more than two or three people who are passionate about families and supporting them, they come up with the most creative answers on identifying resources.”

Scott said this summit’s goal is to figure out how to best provide services and support to all military families, with special emphasis on those who are geographically separated from an installation.

“They are entitled to these services, but it is hard for them to access them,” Scott said. “Does that make those military members … less deserving of services and support? No. Perhaps it makes them more deserving. We just have to figure out ways to do it better.”

Scott said providing interservice and interagency support to troops and family members just makes sense.

“That’s the way we fight. That’s the way we need to support. It’s just the right answer,” he said.

Army Col. Anthony E. Baker, chief of family programs for the National Guard Bureau, said family members really don’t care where they get their needs met, so long as there are met. He said studies have shown that the services need to improve their systems for meeting family members’ needs.

“All they care about is convenience,” Baker said. “They don’t care who delivers it, as long as it’s delivered. That’s what we’re trying to do, is figure out how we can deliver the services to them in such a way that it is not inconvenient to them.”

He also said a better-prepared family is a stronger family during deployment. But the key is getting the service to the family, especially for those who do not live on or near a military installation.

“We have to deliver those services closer to them. We’re not looking for them to come to us. We’re looking to go to them,” he said.

The group will present its findings tomorrow, followed by the 2006 Reserve Family Readiness Awards ceremony. Hall will recognize the units in each reserve component that demonstrated outstanding family readiness.

Editor's Note: Military families can also avail themselves of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which highlights homefront groups across the nation that are providing a variety of services and support to troops and their families. A listing of these groups and information about their efforts is available at www.AmericaSupportsYou.mil.

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Thomas F. Hall

Related Sites:
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs

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