The Army Family Action Plan celebrated its twenty five year anniversary this past August 15th, 2008. Today we had a chance to sit down with Major General John Macdonald Commander of the U.S. Army Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, and Mrs. Becky Pillsbury, spouse of Major General James Pillsbury, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics and Operations, Army Materiel Command in the Military Bloggers round table. MG Macdonald had an unbelievable quote to describe why the Army takes this so seriously, "Soldiers will write a check to our Nation and for our freedom. On it, they will say time, an arm, leg, or even my life. But they will never list my family and my children. That is why we are here, and why the Army takes the Army Family Action Plan so seriously." I could not agree more. We ask so much of our soldiers, we must guarantee that their families are taken care of.
Much of the Army's Family Focus is due in large amount to Mrs Julia Moore, wife of LTG (Ret) Hal Moore, of, "We Were Soldiers Once and Young", fame. Unfortunately Julia passed in 2005 but her actions and service to the families of our Soldiers have been and will be felt for many years to come.
One of the most important parts of the round table was the information that the Army Family Covenant and many of the Army Family Action Programs have been moved from the Global War on Terror supplemental budgets to the permanent Army Budget. This is great news, for it solidifies many of these programs permanently within the Army Infrastructure. For anyone who ever questioned if the Army is doing enough for the families, this is a perfect example that they are. The Army Leadership takes this very seriously and I have personally seen senior officers and NCO's go the extra mile for anyone of our families.
There is also a very large and concerted effort to reach our soldiers who may be geographically distanced from their unit or a military base. This directly applies to many of our Reserve and National Guard Component Soldiers. Many times as Becky Pillsbury pointed out, they are wounded, and after their recovery released back to their hometowns where their is not a military support system in place. Their is a very large effort right now to reach these soldiers and provide them the resources needed for counseling, education, and job assistance. Personally, this is absolutely awesome. After serving in Afghanistan with the MITT's I interacted heavily with National Guard and Reserve Soldiers that had concerns about this, and it is outstanding to see the Army recognizing this and acting upon it.
Another great endeavor that was undertaken by the Army Family Action Plan was the development of Military One Source and Army One Source. This is a web and telephone based service that soldiers and family members can use. It is designed to be a one stop shop for understanding problems, seeking resolution to them, seeking counseling or medical help, and even help with fiscal counseling. It is a phenomenal resource, and I can not say enough about it. It can also connect you to resources for free counseling up to six times, for people who may need help. This also leaves no record within their permanent medical record so if they truly do not want anyone to know, they can go this route also for help.
An upcoming endeavor is a film designed for Family Readiness Groups talking about PTSD. It focuses not only on the soldier, but also on the issues the wife may have. This was another great idea. I know many times I am asked questions about these circumstances, and while I know some, I am far from the expert. But to have a video at the wives finger tips they can watch, and show to other wives, is a great resource. In addition another project that is being worked is additional training for medics to be able to identify possible symptoms of PTSD. As I said in the article about SSG Matt Sims, Combat Medics live and work with our soldiers everyday. Additional training for them to identify possible symptoms of PTSD is an outstanding idea and will pay huge dividends.
The Army Family Action Plan, Army Community Services, and Army Family Team Building are all unbelievable resources for our families and soldiers. It just shows me once again, how much the Army does care about Soldiers and their Families. I count myself blessed to serve, and all of us are blessed that many good people have invested their time and energy in taking care of us and our families.
The link to the transcript of the round table is below along with the links to many of the sites and resources discussed above.