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Installation Management Command Commander Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch and his wife, Sarah, listen to Fort Irwin spouses talk about life in the High Desert on March 1, 2010 at Fort Irwin, Calif.

FORT IRWIN, Calif.- When Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Installation Management Command, and his wife, Sarah, visited Fort Irwin Feb. 28-March 1, the couple sat down with more than a dozen Fort Irwin/National Training Center spouses to discuss life in the High Desert.

"Of the 163 (Army) installations, every place has different conditions. And Fort Irwin has a unique condition in terms of geographic separation," Lynch told the group.

Even with budget cuts being made across the service, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George Casey has stressed that families will come first, Lynch said, adding: "Even though there are (fiscal) constraints this year - and there will be in the future - the priority is to fulfill the Army Family Covenant."

One example of such support: the Army spends $200 million annually on marriage retreats as part of the Strong Bonds program.

"The issue these days with these deployment cycles we're on is that we're straining marriages," the general said. "Since 9/11, the Army has 200,000 broken marriages. We had 27,000 broken marriages last year."

As the commander at Fort Hood, Texas, Lynch ordered that the entire Corps be home for dinner by 6 p.m. and not work on weekends.

"We were proud of our family programs," he said, noting that effective communication of those programs across the Army is important, as many people might not be aware of those programs.

One spouse asked the general on policies giving military spouses hiring preferences.

"General Casey's charge to me is to fulfill the Army Family Covenant part of it, which is taking care of spouses, part of it which is employment opportunities," Lynch said. "At the end of the day, it comes down to that individual (civilian personnel office) implementing the policy."

Labeling himself a "starfisher," Lynch recalled the story of the boy on a beach who threw individual starfishes back into the water to make a difference.

"We're committed to helping out military spouses, because if the Soldier can focus on the fight, while we're focused on the family, then we're exponentially more effective."

The Army will never break because of its Soldiers, he said, noting that in the Third Infantry Division, which he commanded, his soldiers reenlisted in record numbers in the heat of battle.

But, he cautioned, "The Army may break because of families."

As the discussion concluded, Lynch and his wife thanked every spouse for sharing their thoughts on life at Fort Irwin, promising to take their suggestions back to Washington D.C. - and begin working on them to improve the quality of life for families Armywide.

Page last updated Tue March 2nd, 2010 at 15:50