WASHINGTON (Oct. 15, 2014) -- The Army's three most senior officials participated in a virtual town hall Wednesday, Oct. 15, as part of the Annual Meeting of the Association of the United States Army.
The Honorable John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army, joined Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno and the Army's senior enlisted Soldier, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III on stage at the third Army Family Forum to field questions from Soldiers and families around the world.
The town hall, moderated by retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Elizabeth Ann Harrell, began and ended with a promise to Army families.
"Total Army Strong has to be more than just a bumper sticker," McHugh said in his opening comments. "I think if you look back over the past seven years or so, and see the very robust growth of our family programs and services, you'll see we've worked hard to live up to the support of the Army family.
"I believe taking care of families is mission essential."
Odierno expanded on that theme when he admitted that the Army asks a lot of our Soldiers and their families, and we owe it to them to provide the support they need.
"Factor in the fact that we have Soldiers in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and now in Africa to fight a virus, we ask our Soldiers to do a lot of different things, so we ask a lot of their families."
When asked by a member of the audience how leadership expected to be able to continue to provide support to families in an era of budget constraints, Odierno explained that it is possible by tailoring support so that the right programs are in place in the right places.
"It's now the time for us to ensure we find out which programs are the best," he said. "We want to focus to make sure we resource the programs that are absolutely the ones that we need to continue to resource, so it's important to have a discussion and hear from you and hear your concerns.
"What we have to do is figure out what are the most important things we need to resource moving forward to ensure our families don't just survive, they thrive."
When the programs are identified and resourced, the next step, Chandler said, is to reassess how those programs, and awareness of the programs, are delivered to the total Army family.
"We have to reassess the emerging demographic and look at how we can tailor our programs to support them in the way they need to be supported," Chandler explained. "Many of our programs are designed for people to be present, actively getting information. As a society, we're well beyond that today. We may have to address them in ways that may not be comfortable for those of us 'more seasoned.'"
Whether it's a phone app or social media-based crowd sourcing or online virtual classrooms, Odierno believes that the use of emerging technology not only will resonate better with Soldiers and their families, and therefore encourage more participation. The use of technology will help us deliver programs and support at a much cheaper cost.
The final piece to ensuring the Army properly supports Soldiers and their families is the ability to scale and adapt programs and services around the world.
"We're going to have consistent standards," McHugh said, "but we expect our commanders to assess the needs of their posts, installations and camps so they can scale, or tailor, their programs to meet their needs."
Odierno expanded on that concept.
"The guidance I gave to Lt. Gen. Halverson [the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management and Commanding General of the Installation Management Command] is there's a baseline that should be consistent," Odierno said. "But each installation serves a very different population. The needs are different at Anchorage, Alaska, than they are at Fort Lewis. We want to give commanders the capability to react to the needs of their installation. I trust their judgment to arrange programs in a way that meets their populations."
"This is a time for predictability, not politics," McHugh said.
"We're committed to two things: ensuring the war fighter is prepared and taking care of their families."