New manpower chief vows to strengthen Army Family
May 19, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va., (Army News Service, May 18, 2009) -- President Barack Obama's nominee for assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs said May 12, at his confirmation hearing, that he is aware of the concerns about dwell time, which directly affects families.
"We've seen it with our reserve component," said Thomas R. Lamont, who has served for 25 years as a judge advocate in the Illinois Army National Guard. "These are serious concerns. They all tie together. And I will certainly take your comments to heart in our policy discussions."
Lamont testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee saying that if confirmed, "it would be my distinct honor to help ... accomplish the complex and challenging missions our nation asks the Army to perform."
He was confirmed May 18.
"When a Soldier deploys, his family goes to war [too]," Lamont said. "They are confronted with many of the same concerns - housing and education or financial issues that mirror society, but yet it's exacerbated with the loss of a loved one."
As a result, Lamont said he will make family support a priority.
"I think it behooves us to do everything in our power to ensure the strength of our family support program," he said. "Because if we are able to sustain the volunteer Army, we need to sustain that family support group."
Lamont told the senators that he is not "totally familiar" with all the resources currently available to families and won't say that the Army needs more or less. "Clearly, I think we're always open to doing whatever we can to support our families," he said.
"All families share in the sacrifices that their loved ones are going through."
One way to sustain the Army family, he said, was to provide a good education to the approximately 700,000 children that are Army dependents.
"Beyond housing, there is nothing more important than education in the minds of the family support groups at home,' Lamont said. "We must do whatever we can to provide them with ... not just an adequate education, but a good education."
Lamont said end strength is another important issue in the Army, and he bristled at any potential recommendation to reduce the recruiting budget. "I would suggest that was not done without full and deliberate consultation with our senior Defense leaders. And I look forward to determining - in realizing - what those discussions were."
Finally, Lamont lamented the increase in suicides in the Army. "This is a terrible tragedy," he said. "It somewhat mirrors society and again, exacerbated by the long deployment and the lack of a family support group."
Lamont said much more needs be done to recognize behavioral and risk factors, and added that he is aware the Army has initiated "a great deal of new training regimens ... to try to recognize those risk factors among our troubled Soldiers."
(Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum serves with the National Guard Bureau.)