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General Says Education Coalition Makes His Job Easier

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2001 – Most Americans want a better life for their children, but that can't happen without serious educators, Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks said July 12.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Gen. Tommy R. Franks said the Military Child Education Coalition makes his job easy. Franks, commander in chief of Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., spoke at the coalition's annual conference in nearby Palm Harbor July 12, 2001. Photo by Rudi Williams.

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

Franks, commander in chief of nearby U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., delivered a keynote dinner speech here at the annual Military Child Education Coalition conference. The audience included more than 300 coalition members, educators, parents and DoD representatives.

The best thing about the conference, he said, is what participants try to do so military kids of tomorrow will have a better day than military kids today. Military kids live a wonderful life, but they often don't realize it until they grow up and look back at the places they've been, things they've seen and the experiences they've had, he said.

However, the travel that enriches the life experiences of children of military families also creates problems. Students who move frequently are separated from friends and familiar surroundings. Having to change schools means dealing with the transfer of records, coursework and grades; redundant or missing entrance and exit testing; and other school-related and social problems.

The coalition tries to solve such problems and make life easier for children on the move. The nonprofit organization seeks partnerships and provides networking of military bases and school districts to address educational issues related to the military child.

"The work of this coalition is astonishing," Franks said. "To come as far as some of you came to engage in a process that seeks to figure out how to take better care of military kids is a special kind of thing."

"Messing" with kids when they're teen-agers is a "bad deal," Franks said. He said he and his wife Cathy were lucky and didn't experience what many military parents have. Their daughter, now married and the mother of two, moved 12 times while growing up, but only six of those times were during her school years.

"The greatest blessing was that all of her high school years were in one place," he said. His daughter didn't have to spend her senior year as a stranger in a new school, as many military youngsters do.

"Having counselors and administrators who don't understand is harmful," he continued. "But when you have administrators, superintendents, principals, teachers and counselors who do understand and give of themselves to come out and do something like this, it's a big deal."

He said he's beholden to the coalition. "You make my job easier," he said. He said as many as 30,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines do Central Command's work every day throughout an area of responsibility from the Red Sea to Pakistan.

"All of them have families -- moms, dads, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, wives and husbands -- and kids." Every time service members are distracted by worries about their families, they become less effective at their jobs and more dissatisfied with military duty, he noted.

"I'm thankful that people like this coalition (make visible and deal with) the fact that there are kids who do have problems," he said. With that kind of involvement, Franks concluded, "We can improve our ability to move students in military families from place to place and make their lives easy so we can retain troops that have these great families."


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