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Army Secretary, Chief Reaffirm Family Covenant

American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 13, 2009 – The Army’s top military officer and civilian leader underscored the service’s commitment to Army families at last week’s annual meeting and exposition of the Association of the U.S. Army.

Reaffirmation of the Army Family Covenant by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army chief of staff, and Army Secretary John M. McHugh shows that families are taking the forefront in the readiness picture, officials said.

At an Oct. 7 forum sponsored by the Institute of Land Warfare during last week’s event, several family advocates outlined how the covenant has affected families and what they can expect in the future.

The Army has doubled its investment in family programs from $750 million to $1.5 billion, said Kathleen Marin, director of installation services for the office of the assistant chief of installation management, who highlighted some programs and initiatives that have evolved since the Army Family Covenant first was signed in 2007. They include:

-- Adding 1,079 readiness support assistant positions;

-- Increasing the number of military family life consultants from 144 to 212;

-- Establishing Army survivor outreach services to improve support for survivors of fallen soldiers;

-- Funding construction of more than 100 child development centers;

-- Gaining support of 39 Fortune 500 companies who have helped to find jobs for more than 41,000 military spouses through the Army Spouse Employment Program;

-- Developing the Warrior Adventure Quest for soldiers to participate in outdoor adventure activities that help them cope with re-integration after the stresses of a combat environment; and

-- Getting 25 states to sign the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children – a change that affects 71 percent of students of servicemembers.

Also, a new program called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness has begun with basic training recruits. Modeled after Army physical training, it is a psychological fitness initiative that will leave soldiers with mental strength and resilience through physical challenges.

"It's not a cure-all, but it helps prevent negative outcomes," said Army Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, the program's director. It's slated to start in the active Army in November, and it will be available to family members in January.

Army Col. David C. Moran from the office of the chief of chaplains told attendees how a 10-year-old program called Strong Bonds has benefited from funding by being placed under the Army Family Covenant. Similar to unit stand-downs, it's a retreat-based program in which family members get away from work and home to build stronger relationships.

The number of participants has doubled every year, and in 2010, it's projected to have 4,000 events totaling more than 365,000 participants.

Army Brig. Gen. Richard W. Thomas, office of the surgeon general, said that while the Army Family Covenant has affected health care programs and initiatives, it's up to leadership and family advocates to keep soldiers and families informed on how to access health services. Over the past 20 years, the number of Army hospitals has shrunk as the growth of Tricare military health plan networks has replaced much of what those facilities had provided.

To get the word out on the Army Family Covenant, the Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command has instituted an aggressive marketing campaign that "will highlight the strength of the American soldier and his or her family," James Abney, a command official. At the forefront is the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, with in-store messaging, food court tray liners and 100 fleet trucks carrying the family covenant message.

U.S. Army Accessions Command officials said they will get the message out to recruiting stations to ensure potential recruits know the importance of family members in the Army.

(From an Association of the U.S. Army news release.)

Contact Author

Biographies:
Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr.
John M. McHugh

Related Sites:
AFPS' Family Matters Blog - Leaders Renew Commitment to Army Families
AFPS' Family Matters Blog -- Army Family Covenant

Related Articles:
Services’ Top Enlisted Members Discuss Family Support



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