JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — The U.S. Army prioritizes its people and is thereby committed to improving the quality of life for Soldiers and their family members. In support of this effort Leann Martin, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army's spouse, and Dee Geise, Quality of Life Task Force deputy chief of staff, visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Nov. 17, to learn about local quality of life initiatives and to receive candid feedback from military spouses.
“We want the raw truth,” said Martin, during her first visit to the largest military installation on the west coast. “Hearing [Army spouses] talk about their encounters and what they’ve had to deal with is very important. We want them to share with us, so we can help make changes in a positive way.”
Martin and Geise met with approximately 20 JBLM spouses and discussed critical quality of life concerns to include housing, healthcare, childcare, spouse employment, permanent change-of-station moves, support and resilience. Geise said that family members’ wellbeing directly affects Army retention and readiness.
“A ready family enables a ready Soldier, and that collectively creates a ready Army,” said Geise. “The goal of the QOL initiative is to have a supportive structure in order for Soldiers and their families to thrive.”
“We want to keep good Soldiers in our Army, and it's important that their families are cared for,” added Martin. “They need to be independent and resilient, but when they need something, that service should be there for them.”
Geise and Martin toured several JBLM facilities that strive to improve conditions for service members and their families, to include child development centers and the base’s Children’s Museum — the first, interactive, and free children’s museum on a U.S. Military installation. They also toured the Department of Public Works, JBLM Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and the Department of Personnel and Family Readiness, which combined Army Community Service, the Directorate of Human Resources, and the Airman & Family Readiness Center in 2017 to offer a more robust selection of services to the JBLM community.
The duo also visited JBLM’s Center for Autism, Resources, Education and Services (CARES) facility. This resource provides assistance for families who have special needs, with an emphasis on those with autism, and is the only program of its kind in the Department of Defense.
“CARES is a collaborative model to support families,” said Megan O’Day, JBLM DPFR and Exceptional Family Member Program Family Support Manager. “The program connects EFMP families to each other and people in their neighborhood when they are new to the JBLM area, or if a dependent has been recently diagnosed with any neuro-developmental delays.”
Kirsten Brunson, spouse of the America’s First Corps commanding general, said a connected community and cohesion also enhances military quality of life.
“Sense of community amongst families is important,” said Brunson. “We want to build a sense of community and belonging here. The way we do that is by ensuring all service members have the resources they need to take care of their families.”
Martin shared similar sentiments and added that social bonds help improve Soldiers and families’ wellbeing.
“I've depended on other Army spouses throughout my Soldier's career, and we're close like family,” she said. “We are a family, and I want the younger generation that's coming up in the Army to have that same feeling - that they belong, they're important, they're valued.”