WASHINGTON — During a military family forum at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Expo, Oct. 11, a panel of experts discussed building connections to strengthen personal, family, and community relationships.
The panel consisted of Jennie Taylor, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Utah; Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Thomas L. Solhjem, U.S. Army chief of chaplains; Colonel Kevin Goke, U.S. Army chief of behavioral health, Joshua P. Gwinn, deputy director, G-9, for U.S. Army Installation Management Command; Jane Rodgers, Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s national vice president for partnerships and growth; and retired Colonel Steve Lewis as the moderator.
Chaplain Solhjem shared the importance of spiritual connections and how they strengthen relationships.
“We are all spiritual beings,” Solhjem said. “Evidence-based science shows that we are hardwired 30% for spiritual connection and 70% environmental. If that 30% is not developed well in adolescence, then in adulthood, that person will not be spiritually conversant.
“It's your family; it's your friends; it's your teammates; it's the connections that you have; and It's the life that you choose to live and it’s the path that you're on,” Solhjem said. “It’s the values, your beliefs, all of those things are a multitude of spiritual connections that build scaffolding in the Soldier and in the Soldiers family's life.”
FM 7-22, Holistic Health and Fitness, establishes the Army’s doctrine for the readiness training of Soldiers. Spiritual readiness is the fourth domain in the H2F system.
“It’s great to be partnered with the Chaplain Corps in the Spiritual Readiness initiative,” Goke said. “It’s important that we’re really putting back on the table the H2F and its five domains. As a behavioral health provider, I must be within my military treatment facility walls, but we need to engage all of the resources that are out there and we have to engage that spiritual component.”
Connecting the family
Jane Rodgers described the Mission Youth Outreach program that allows any young person connected to an active duty, National Guard, or Reserve family to be able to get a free membership to a local Boys and Girls Club.
“The number one thing to take away is that we want your young people, our Army families, to be able to have assurances that there is a safe, incredible, out of school time program available regardless of where your post is,” Rodgers said.
Joshua Gwinn described the Digital Garrison mobile app that provides information and facilitates access to a full array of on-post services, as part of a partnership with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service and the U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
“Communication is the hardest part, as you go garrison to garrison,” said Gwinn. “How you plug in and where you go to. So, we’ve partnered with AAFES with a digital garrison app that has a platform with all the plug-in information for Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs, ACS programs, and other services.”
Connecting the Community
Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army (CASAs) are business and community leaders appointed by the Secretary to advise and support Army leaders across the country.
“Our job as CASAs is to connect the Army,” Taylor said. “We come from different backgrounds, but every one of us has a passion for supporting the Army. I would encourage you, those of you in command, those of you who have family programs, let your CASA help be that connecting point.”
“Meaningful connections that build healthy relationships is what we’re really talking about,” Solhjem said. “Everybody needs somebody sometime, whether that's behavioral health, the chaplain, some other care provider, a family member, or a friend, nobody should be alone. What we should do is invest in people, connect them in spirit, and cultivate community.”
Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army