Sustain our Soldiers, Families, and Civilians
Sustain is defined as maintaining the quality of our All-Volunteer Force and the many capabilities it provides to the Nation. This is the first time in our history when an All-Volunteer Force has been engaged in conflict for this long. We have taken a hard look at how we take care of our most valuable resource—our people—to determine what needs to change in terms of support and services. Our objective is to ensure our Soldiers, our Families, and our Civilian workforce have meaningful programs available to them and that the Army community affords the quality of life they deserve for the service that they render to the Nation.
Sustain begins with recruiting high-quality Soldiers and Civilians, and then retaining them and their Families by providing a lifestyle that eases the challenges of military life, acknowledges the special sacrifices involved with service to the Nation, and provides support and services to all members of the Army Family. Sustain also demands that we ensure our wounded, ill, and injured Warriors in Transition receive the care and support they need to reintegrate effectively into the Army or civilian life and that we, as an institution, never forget our moral obligation to assist every spouse and Family who suffered the loss of their Soldier or Civilian in past, present, or future conflicts.
The main components of Sustain are recruitment, retention, quality of life, care for our Warriors in Transition, and care for the Families of our fallen Soldiers.
Recruit Soldiers. Sustaining the All-Volunteer Force remains a fundamental strategic objective for the Army. Achieving this objective is more challenging as we incrementally increase our total force end strength each year to reach 1,111,600 Soldiers by 2013. Our glide path to achieving success in our yearly end strength goals depends on an effective combination of recruiting and retention efforts across and between all components.
We ended the 2007 recruiting year successfully with almost 183,000 men and women becoming Army Strong by joining units in our active component, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve. Our active component and Army Reserve exceeded their accession objectives by achieving 100.5 and 100.6 percent of their accession missions respectively. Our Army National Guard, while just short of its accession mission, still exceeded its end-strength objective by over 2,700 Soldiers through an aggressive and successful retention program. In an increasingly competitive recruiting environment, our goal in 2008 is to continue to reach yearly end strength goals while simultaneously achieving Army standards for recruit quality.
With the support of the Congress and the Department of Defense, we were able to institute several enlistment incentives to target specific occupational specialties and to reward recruits who chose to report for training early. Our new Active First program, which involves initial service with the active component followed by a period of service as a National Guard Soldier, has proved to be very effective in helping us meet current and future manning requirements, both active and reserve. We are initiating a test of a new incentive program, the Army Advantage Fund, in 2008 that will provide Soldiers and former Soldiers money for a down-payment on a home or seed money to start a small business. We are also investigating and recommending changes to the Montgomery GI Bill that will help attract new recruits.
To improve recruiting and career management of our Civilian workforce, we began implementing the National Security Personnel System during 2007. This new system will simplify the hiring process and allow the Army to be more competitive with other employers in hiring new employees. Additionally, we have continued our Army Career Intern Program to attract young professionals to a career in government service.
Retain Soldiers. During 2007, we continued a five-year record of achieving Army-wide goals for retaining Soldiers. Each component exceeded its retention goals, contributing to an aggregate rate across the Army of 109 percent (10,907 reenlistments over the goal of 116,349). We continue to reenlist two out of every three eligible Soldiers and one out of every two first-term Soldiers.
To counter the exceptional stress and hardship of multiple deployments, we expanded enlisted retention incentives. We have enjoyed tremendous support from the Congress in sustaining the quality of our All-Volunteer Force by rewarding our Soldiers with increased reenlistment bonuses. Many of these bonuses are aimed at Soldiers with specific critical skills that sustain our range of capability. We have also established new officer retention incentives focused on retaining the war fighter knowledge and experience of our junior officers by offering advanced education, assignment choices, or monetary incentives,
Improve Quality of Life. By far the most important element in sustaining our Army is the quality of life we provide to our Soldiers and their Families. On Oct. 9, 2007, we launched the Soldier-Family Action Plan (SFAP) to address shortfalls in existing programs and services. At the core of the SFAP is the Army Family Covenant that conveys our commitment to support all members of the Army Family in five general areas.
We have continued a number of other successful assistance programs to ensure the vitality of our Soldiers, Families, and Army Civilians. These include programs that address diversity, substance abuse, suicide prevention, safety and occupational health, sexual assault, equal employment opportunity, and deployment cycle support.
Our commitment to family readiness is further demonstrated by our decision to establish and fund family readiness group deployment assistants down to battalion level to assist Family readiness groups before, during, and after deployments. Many of these deployment assistants are already in place, and we will increase our investment in 2008 to fund a total of 1,011 positions across the force.
Care for Warriors in Transition. Our care for Warriors in Transition represents the core of our Soldier’s Creed to “never leave a fallen comrade.” On Feb. 21, 2007, we initiated a complete review of the medical treatment and rehabilitation of our wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers through the Army Medical Action Plan (AMAP). Our plan provided immediate action to improve infrastructure, leadership, and processes. AMAP provides a patient-centric health care system in which each Soldier is supported by a caring and energetic triad of care: a physician primary care manager, and a registered nurse case manager, and a squad leader. Our care includes extensive assistance to help Soldiers return to the Army or transition to civilian life. Through AMAP, we have improved both long- and short-term care at medical centers across the Army.
In addition to immediate actions, our plan includes sustaining measures to provide permanent facilities conducive to the entire healing process. These facilities will require additional resources so we can standardize care Army-wide. As our rolls of wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers grow, we will strive to continue providing the best medical care available. We, as an Army and a Nation, owe the best care possible to these dedicated and patriotic service members who have sacrificed so much in their service to the country.
Support Families of the Fallen. We have lost over 3,000 Soldiers from our Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, each with a Family back home. Their sacrifices and loss can never be fully repaid. Our commitment in the Soldier’s Creed to “never leave a fallen comrade” also applies to the Families of our fallen Soldiers.
We will continue to honor our fallen Soldiers and, on their behalf, provide support and assistance to their Families in making final arrangements and providing funeral and travel entitlements for Family members. We will continue to examine our processes and policies in an effort to improve support to these Families during and after this very difficult time.
Sustaining the All-Volunteer Army with quality Soldiers and developing a talented and dedicated Civilian workforce are key elements in maintaining and improving the capabilities of our Army. To motivate Soldiers and Civilians to serve the Nation we must create a stimulating environment that fosters growth and personal satisfaction. Above all, we must provide programs and services that permit Families to enjoy a quality of life that includes a deep sense of security and well-being. This requires sustained, predictable funding in our base budget to support programs like AMAP and to turn around shortfalls addressed in the SFAP. Our focus on the imperative of Sustain will help bring the Army back into balance by enabling us to meet our manning objectives, both quantity and quality, as we grow the Army.
Army Family Covenant
- Standardize and fund existing Family programs and services.
- Increase accessibility and quality of health care.
- Improve Soldier and Family Housing.
- Ensure excellence in schools, youth services, and child care.
- Expand education and employment opportunities for Family members.
Related Information Papers:
- Post-Deployment Health Reassessment
- US_Army Wounded_Warrior_Program