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Marine Commandant Ties TRICARE to Military Readiness

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2001 – Medical care is a key component of military readiness, the nation's top Marine said here Jan. 22.

"This fact is obvious to anyone who has watched an episode of M*A*S*H," Gen. James Jones, Marine Corps commandant, said to military healthcare providers and administrators assembled here Jan. 21-25 for the annual TRICARE Conference.

The military health system influences readiness by caring for troops around the world and by caring for family members, and retirees and their spouses at home, he said. TRICARE is particularly helpful in meeting healthcare needs of members and families stationed away from military medical treatment facilities, Jones said.

But TRICARE also influences the intangibles of military readiness, such as morale, the will to fight and dedication to duty, he said.

"Our men and women in uniform perform their daily tasks better ... if they are not distracted by worries concerning their families," he said. Distractions and worry affect people in all fields, but the stakes are sometimes higher in the military, he asserted.

"We belong to one of the few professions in our society where duty and mission accomplishment often place us in harm's way," Jones said. "Even in times of peace, our military service members often have tremendous responsibilities while working under stressful circumstances far from home."

He also noted TRICARE influences retention by providing healthcare for military retirees. "Your role in caring for veterans helps to express the nation's gratitude for their selfless service," Jones said.

The commandant said TRICARE has improved customer service and needs to continue those efforts. He specifically pointed to better training for customer service representatives.

"The sergeant major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Alford McMichael, has happily noted that TRICARE no longer dominates the discussions that our senior enlisted leaders have concerning the problems and challenges service members face," Jones said.

He noted some members' opinions may be based on past unpleasant experiences that TRICARE has worked hard to fix.

"TRICARE should be assessed by its performance today, not by the mistakes of yesterday," he said. "Service members need to be aware that many problems have been rectified. Improvements have been made and continue to be made."

He also told the conferees they need to make it easier for service members to move from one TRICARE region to another. "

The experiences that service members have with TRICARE should be the same regardless of the TRICARE region in which they receive care," Jones said.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageGen. James Jones, commandant of the Marine Corps, speaks to military healthcare providers and administrators assembled for the annual TRICARE Conference in Washington. In his speech Jan. 22, 2001, the nation's top Marine linked medical healthcare to military readiness. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA.   
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