WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 5, 2009) -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston told Congress Wednesday that childcare and access to healthcare treatment are top concerns of Soldiers and their families.

Preston testified before the Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs on Capitol Hill.

"Our goal is to provide 80 percent of childcare and 35 percent of youth-program demands by the end FY 09," he said.

The quality of healthcare treatment isn't the problem but instead access and availability to treatment according to Soldiers and their family members, Preston said. Although well-maintained and operated, many facilities are not up to date and cannot provide the treatment available in modern facilities, Preston said.

Another big concern mentioned was the increasing suicide rates among Soldiers.

"We continue to look for initiatives to increase resources and enhance our efforts to identify, intervene and prevent suicidal behavior," Preston said.

These initiatives include implementing a comprehensive Soldier fitness program with the vision of an Army whose resilience and total fitness enables it to thrive in high operations tempo and during persistent conflict, Preston said.

The Army is not broken or hollow, Preston said, but added this era of persistent conflict and its demands have strained Army resources, Soldiers, Families and equipment. He told the subcommittee "with your support, we intend to restore this balance."

Preston highlighted the fact that 2009 is the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer.

"I am proud that this year we will celebrate 2009 as the year of the NCO," Preston said. "During this year, we will accelerate previously approved strategic NCO development initiatives that enhance training, education, capability and utilization of our NCOs."

Several members of the subcommittee, including Chairperson Chet Edwards (Texas) and Minority Ranking Member Zach Wamp (Tenn.), expressed their appreciation and commitment of continued support to the Army and military at large.

Command Sgt. Maj. of the Army National Guard John Gipe and Command Sgt. Maj. of the Army Reserve Leon Caffie were present. Also, Sgt. Maj. of the Marines Corps Carlton Kent, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley were in attendance and gave their testimonies as well.

"Your support this past year and your continued support today have had a tremendous impact on Soldiers and their families and on behalf of all them I just want to say thank you for all your work and effort," Preston said.