In Our Opinion — April 2013
Supporting Military Families ...
As we honor and celebrate April as the Month of the Military Child, it is important to reassess how far the Department of Defense (DoD) has come in the area of supporting military families — the backbone of an all-voluntary force — during the past 10-plus years of conflict. With “sequestration process” and “continuing resolution” now household phrases, the focus for military leaders, and the defenders of quality of life who deliver essential Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs, is to protect a benefit that has taken decades to strengthen to acceptable levels, and to uphold a benefit that supports service members, veterans and their families, who have given their blood, sweat and tears to defend our freedoms.
Both Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Charles E. Milam, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for Military Community and Family Policy, have come out recently promising continued support levels for service members and their families, because they understand how critically important these quality-of-life programs and facilities are to overall readiness, to retention, to continuing to be able to recruit high-caliber service members and train and prepare them properly.
They understand how essential it is in times of fiscal uncertainty to assure the nation's “military family” that although cuts are being made, they will not be made at their expense.
Maintaining the “status quo” for MWR facilities and programs is a top priority, as they provide a lifeline to service members, veterans and their families, many times at the most critical and stressful times in their lives. Whether it is a lodge, a recreation center or an MWR foodservice location, these facilities are sanctuaries for military families, especially family members of those who are deployed, and provide necessary programs that not only help people stay healthy and happy, but also contribute to mission readiness and help wounded warriors and veterans heal during their greatest time of need.
Community Recreation Division Chief Rick Randle at JB Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Wash., noted that providing high-quality FMWR facilities and familyfocused events, like the many that are held at this high operational tempo base, is of the utmost importance.
“We have been at war for the past 10 years, and JB Lewis-McChord has played an integral part in sending soldiers to the deployed areas,” he pointed out. “And one of the key elements to MWR is that we take care of a soldier's family when a soldier is deployed. And if we do our jobs right, when that soldier is in a deployed area, he is able to concentrate on his job at hand because he knows his family is being taken care of back here at JBLM. We take that role very seriously, and our command here has been very supportive of MWR, providing the necessary funding to do the things that we have done in our facilities.”
The recent announcement by DoD of its new Healthy Base Initiative (HBI) is another way that military leaders are sending a message to military families, that “we care.” As a demonstration project for Operation Live Well, the goal of the initiative, which is being piloted at 13 military installations, is to increase the health and wellness of the total force, including civilians and family members. The pillars of the initiative — nutrition, fitness and tobacco cessation — are critically important to the overall health and wellness of a fit force, and provide additional peace of mind for service members with families, and guidance and resources for single service members as well.
The HBI also sends the message that, even though the fiscal future is a bit clouded, the resolve of DoD and MWR professionals to take care of service members and their families is not.
And, that no amount of budget cuts can diminish that resolve.