Reserves Announce Strategic Family Readiness Plan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 9, 2000 If you were to visit U.S. troops in the world's hot spots -- Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and others -- chances are, you'll meet members of the reserve components. Guardsmen and reservists are increasingly mobilizing for missions only active duty troops did a decade ago.
But calling up the reserves is different from ordering an active duty unit for deployment. And what works for active duty families' readiness may not work for reservists.
"The 'missioning' of the reserve components has changed dramatically, yet we really hadn't focused on how their operations tempo was impacting on members' families," said Charles Cragin, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.
DoD studied the problems of family readiness and issued the "National Guard and Reserve Family Readiness Strategic Plan: 2000-2005."
"This is a plan designed to lay down some goals and objectives for the next five years on how we can foster a better program of family readiness within the reserve components," said Cragin.
"Frankly, we hadn't been doing as good a job as we should within the reserve components," he said.
The reserve plan is a result of a partnership of Cragin's office and the DoD offices of family policy and of personnel support, families and education. Representatives from these offices and other DoD "communities" considered the plan at a September 1999 conference here.
The meeting brought together enlisted and officer members, spouses, representatives from the American Red Cross and the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and family support personnel from throughout the services.
The strategic plan supports four major goals. First, it supports mission readiness through reserve component family readiness.
"Men and women in the reserves have a full-time civilian job, and then they also have a full-time commitment to America in the Guard or reserves," he said. "So the more time they spend in the reserves, the less time they spend with their families."
Taking care of reserve component family members, therefore, is an important readiness issue, and the family readiness plan is more than "nice-to-have," Cragin said. "It has long been said that you recruit the member, but retain the family," he said.
The second goal is to develop family readiness programs and services that improve quality of life and support reserve component recruiting and retention.
The third goal is to provide reserve component service members equitable and accessible benefits and entitlements. "In quality of life issues for family members, we wanted to look at equity of benefits and entitlements of active and reserve component members' families," Cragin said. "That doesn't mean parity, but equity based on what everybody is doing as part of the total force."
The fourth, and possibly most difficult, is to standardize the readiness programs across the services and within the services to ensure their families are seamlessly integrated into the total force. One of the plan recommendations to this end is to establish a DoD-level family readiness office. But this effort still recognizes there are differences between the active and reserve components, however.
"I think what we've tried to do is ... accommodate those differences," Cragin said. "For example, the families of members of the Guard and reserves live in just about every community in America. They're not necessarily linked to a military base or facility. We have to recognize that.
"You can have a member of an air refueling wing in Selfridge, Mich., called up for Kosovo, but his spouse lives three states away," he continued. "And that is not unique. We have to recognize those sorts of disparities and make accommodation for them."
The strategic plan will be printed soon, but is available now online at http://dod.mil/ra/documents/familyStratpln.pdf.
Cragin's office is also releasing a reserve component family member benefits guide, which is available online at http://dod.mil/ra/documents/family/benefits.pdf. [link no longer available]