Senior leaders tackle Army Family concerns in town hall

By Sean Kimmons, Army News ServiceOctober 11, 2018

Senior leaders tackle military family concerns in town hall
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WASHINGTON -- The Army's top leaders held a town hall meeting Tuesday to address issues voiced by Family members, including substandard moving companies, jobs for spouses and possible health concerns in older on-base homes.

With a force of more than 2.2 million Soldiers and Families, including nearly 500,000 spouses and over 830,000 children, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey said taking care of all of them is a huge task that requires everyone's help.

"We're not perfect," Dailey told the audience at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting. "Your job is to help us identify the things that we need to fix so we can continue to take good care of our Soldiers and Families."

To listen to specific issues, Dailey, Army Secretary Mark T. Esper and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley fielded questions from social media and those in the audience.

All leaders agreed that if the Army fails to provide adequate quality of life to military families, then Soldiers worry and that leads to a readiness issue.

"This really is all about readiness," Milley said, adding that taking care of Soldiers and Families remains a top priority. "It's not just a bumper sticker. It's not something that we take lightly. It's very integral to the overall health of the force."

One problem brought up was lost or damaged household goods that many Families experience as they change duty stations during peak moving season in the summer.

Since about 40 percent of all moves occur in the summer, Esper said, there has been a proposal that could limit the amount of single Soldiers that move in the summer. In turn, that would put less strain on over-tasked carriers.

"If you just did that, it would take off a significant percentage in the people you're trying to move during that period," he said. "It may reduce the amount of lost and damaged household goods."

He also suggested that there should be an Army-run website that tracks moving companies that have performed poorly or have been suspended.

"It also sends a message to the companies, who also compete in the commercial sector, that they are on notice, much like what the Better Business Bureau does," he said.

Esper said he plans to work with the Navy and Air Force secretaries to find solutions to this ongoing issue.

"We've found that we are more effective as a team," he said.

In regards to spousal employment, Dailey admitted that the constant moves in the military create hurdles that Soldiers must help their spouses overcome.

"This is a journey that you have to do together and it's going to come with challenges," he said. "We have to encourage our spouses to get out there and seek help."

Transition assistance centers found on installations can provide support to spouses, he said, adding there is also ongoing work to help with the transferring of professional licenses for spouses moving to another location.

Another possible answer to this, Esper said, could be allowing Soldiers to stay put for longer.

"If they want to stay in one location longer than three years because the kids are in a good school or the spouse has a great job, then we need to look to accommodate that," he said.

As for housing, there are nearly 100,000 Army homes out there. Of them, about 36,000 were built before 1978.

Home inspections for mold, lead and asbestos have already begun on about 10 percent of the Army's pre-1970s homes. At the end of the year, the tests will give a good baseline understanding of whether the Army should do more to maintain older homes.

Esper said that they will even test for lead in tap water and see if any lead paint on the outside of a home has leaked indoors.

Local housing offices should also be readily available to remedy any issues.

"Our commitment is that if you have any reason of concern, we will be within that home that day to do testing," Esper said, "and if we come up with a problem and we can't fix it immediately, we will take active measures to get you out of that home."

Milley echoed that sentiment and urged Families to take care of themselves.

"Nobody wants any of our Soldiers or their Families and little kids to be at risk," he said.

To show how serious he was on the issue, he told Soldiers to email him and the other two senior leaders directly if a possible health concern in their home is not being addressed.

"It's your Family's health and safety and the three of us here do not want it jeopardized," the general said. "So, if you pop in an email into our inbox… I guarantee it will get fixed."

Military Family Forum III: Army Senior Leader Town Hall

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