By Joe LacdanFebruary 6, 2019
WASHINGTON -- As service members continue to be heavily tasked overseas, separation from families and the impact of deployments on children rank as top areas of concern, a Blue Star Family survey revealed.
The 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, which evaluated responses of more than 10,000 service members, spouses and veterans, also showed quality of life remains a key issue.
"Improvements in our quality of life for our men and women and their families is our focus each and every day," said Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, the Army's assistant chief of staff for installation management. "I think when we do this well, our Soldiers, civilians and families really prosper.
Additionally, military spouse employment also scored high, as spouses often must transition their careers and home life to frequent deployments and change of duty stations.
ACSIM has partnered with Army Training and Doctrine Command to develop a vision for future installations and the services provided for the comfort and well-being of military families and spouses.
ACSIM conducted surveys among younger Soldiers and their families. The results showed the top priority was accessibility and interaction through social media to learn about installation benefits and services, Bingham said. She addressed concerns of veterans and military families during a panel discussion in Washington Wednesday.
"They want to be connected in a way that gives them that instantaneous response," she said of young Soldiers.
Bingham added the Army is looking into the possibility of adding more self-service cash registers at installation facilities to expedite the purchasing process for service members and their families.
Partnering with local community leaders will also be crucial to improving quality of life for service members, as on-average, only 35 percent of an installation's population lives on base, she said.
"That's really one of the things that we benefit from: those strong relationships and partnerships," Bingham said. "We cannot do it by ourselves."
STRENGTHENING THE FORCE
Lt. Gen. Nadja West, Army surgeon general and commander of Army Medical Command, addressed the issue of long-term retention in the service in another panel discussion. The general said the Army must gain an understanding of young recruits' career aspirations.
When Army leaders and recruiters can help chart the path of a young Soldier or lieutenant, they can increase the possibility of a long-term commitment to the Army. Showcasing the diversity of career fields in the Army can be crucial to retaining women and men, she said.
In recent years, the number of careers for female Soldiers has increased, as the Defense Department opened combat-related jobs to women in 2015, including combat engineers and Army Rangers.
"That only makes us better as a nation -- as a military," Bingham said.
An educational campaign to better inform female recruits about jobs could also be key in retaining female service members, the general said. A mentoring program that addresses issues and challenges of each career field could provide assistance.
Safety and well-being could also be a concern of potential female recruits, West said.
She said the Army remains dedicated to ending sexual harassment in the service. While sexual harassment in the workplace remains an ongoing battle, Army leaders continue to strengthen prevention efforts.
"Our senior leaders take this extremely seriously at the highest levels," West said.
Among the strategies: the service has stressed Army values early in Soldiers' careers. Soldiers are given lessons on acceptable behavior, and Army values are established as a foundation for professional conduct.
Each unit has been assigned an advocate and educator trained on sexual harassment and sexual assault issues. Victims can seek counsel from these individuals and provide assistance. They also create a welcome, safe environment for victims who may be afraid to seek help.
"If anyone is a victim of any of those types of behaviors, they have someone to go to directly that knows how to get them help if they need it," West said. "Just to make sure that there is a culture that the victims -- no matter if they're males or females -- can go somewhere to get assistance. There's no tolerance for [sexual harassment and sexual assault]."