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Army to fully fund family readiness groups


By Tim Hipps

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 17, 2005) -- About $43 billion has been earmarked this fiscal year for Army family programs, fully funding family readiness groups for the first time, said the Army's top personnel officer.

"We've been pushing this for years and it's gotten better and better every year," said Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, deputy chief of staff, Army G-1, one of numerous speakers during a three-day family forum Oct. 3-5.

Hagenbeck said the Army is counting on families' feedback to help ensure the money is properly allocated.

'Support families in Transformation'

Hagenbeck and other military leaders speaking at the family forum, part of the Association of United States Army's annual meeting, stressed the importance of supporting Soldiers and their families during the Army's transformation.

"Too often we focus exclusively on those of us wearing uniforms, but I will tell you that all of you in this room recognize full well that it's much, much more than that," Hagenbeck said. "We need in many instances to do a better job than we do today in recognizing all the families, spouses and supporting agencies that reside inside our Army and all their components."

New Web sites support families

Col. Dennis Dingle, director of the Army's human resources policy directorate, oversees programs dealing with alcohol and drug abuse, rest and recuperation leave, sexual assault, mentorship, redeployment and retirement, among others. He introduced Web sites that included: www.army.mil/wellbeing, www.sexualassault.army.mil and www.mentorship.army.mil, among others.

"There's so much to click on your wrist may grow tired," said Dingle, who stressed military families' needs to serve, live, connect and grow. "There are some great initiatives out there in the field that we're going to take advantage of in the coming fiscal year. We're going to take more some trips out to see what those programs and services are and get the feedback on those programs so that we know how to make them better."

Only 10 percent seeking R&R reimbursement

Dingle said that about 40,000 Soldiers have used the Rest & Recuperation Leave Program, instituted in 2003, but only about 4,000 have sought reimbursement for air fares they purchased out-of-pocket.

"We want those [other] Soldiers to come in," he said. "We owe them the reimbursement."

Virtual family readiness groups online

Brig. Gen. John A. Macdonald, commander of the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center, outlined how the multi-component family support network and virtual family readiness groups provide support and information to assist Soldiers and families before, during and after deployments.

Macdonald said surveys indicate that 87 percent of enlisted families have a computer in their home and 93 percent of officers' homes are computer-equipped, thus explaining the Army's creation of more and more Web sites to spread the wealth of its programs.

"You can't expect the industrial age of leaving personal lives at the fence," he said. "We did that for awhile and we had baby carriers on the bleachers during [physical training]... We've gotten smarter than that. You can't hire part of the person. ... And if you don't pay attention to all of that, the Department of Defense says, you don't retain that skilled, motivated, very functionally capable [Soldier]... We have a group of people that we can't afford to let go."

Next phase: Operation Ready

Macdonald touched on refining Operation Ready, the next phase of Army Family Team Building, Family Readiness Groups, Military One Source and the Web site www.MyArmyLifeToo.com, among other programs provided by CFSC.

Everything discussed in the forum is designed to simplify life for Army families, he said.

"We want to make every Soldier and every family feel that they can do anything that they want to do," said Brig. Gen. Russell L. Frutiger, U.S. Army Europe's deputy assistant chief of staff, G-1, adding that the Army views deployment as a family affair. "It's just a totally new way of doing business."

(Editor's note: Tim Hipps writes for the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center.)

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