As efforts continue to strengthen service members and their families, Pentagon officials held a Bloggers Roundtable to highlight the myriad resources available to tackle the unique military and transitional challenges those who serve may face.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy Rosemary Freitas Williams, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff senior enlisted advisor, and Navy Command Master Chief Petty Officer Terry Prince, Defense Health Agency senior enlisted advisor, discussed military family health and welfare and the value of Military OneSource.
“We are keen on having a safe and happy holiday season [but] there’s a lot of stress around the holidays, which is unavoidable,” Williams said.
She urged military families feeling such stress to look to Military OneSource, a call center and online resource that can assist with a range of issues and situations, regardless of base or status.
“It’s for folks maybe having a difficult time, they could be caregivers, they could be [children], or maybe a spouse of a deployed person,” Williams explained, adding that the toll-free 800-247-HELP line is available and comes with 12 free counseling sessions, per issue, per person. “Help is no more than an average distance of about 3.2 miles away,” she noted.
Williams also said that job assistance and a range of resources are available to all types of DoD families, including same-gender couples.
“Every resource that’s available to Lisa Battaglia [wife of Sgt. Maj. Battaglia] is available to our same-gender spouses,” Williams said. “We’ve added a number of resources that pertain directly to same-gender couples in the military so they can help navigate military life and whatever unique challenges they face.”
Transition GPS Helps Separating, Retiring Troops
As advisor to both Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the chairman, Battaglia said in addition to the health, welfare, and education of service members, he’s also heavily engaged in helping them manage transition. The Transition GPS program, he said, will better prepare military members whether in separation or retirement.
“This will have a significant impact in setting successes for service members to become productive members of society once that reintegration takes place, regardless if they are active duty, Guard or Reserve,” Battaglia said. “It leads them to three tracks: one for higher education, another track for those with a desire to enter the workforce and the newest track, which came from service members themselves, is entrepreneurship.”
Seeking Command Sponsorship Input
For those who still serve, especially in remote locales, Battaglia also pledged to help improve the command sponsorship process. He said he and his family have personally made 17 moves during his career.
“[Permanent-change-of-station] to us is a natural body clock … versus Korea where it might be a junior enlisted person’s first [permanent change-of-station] move,” Battaglia said. “If we get it wrong, then it just means more stressors are placed on a family.”
Battaglia said he plans to travel to bases in Korea and Japan in February to speak to troops in the field to gauge junior enlisted experiences and address their concerns.
“With the reshaping of our force, there can be some expectations now that some of the transfers and PCS moving may not be as frequent as it used to be,” Battaglia said. “I’m open to ideas as to how to make command sponsorship anywhere on the globe better.”
Operation Live Well
Meanwhile in health matters, Prince said the Defense Health Agency and Tricare has developed tools, resources and original content through its program, Operation Live Well, for service members and their families across the forces.
“We’re focusing on integrative wellness, physical activity, sleep, nutrition, tobacco-free living and mental wellness,” he said.
(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDODNews)