Mission Possible: Improving Family readiness starts with community

By Tara Davis, Directorate of Prevention, Resilience and ReadinessDecember 21, 2023

Paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division spend time with Ukrainian children in Rzeszów, Poland while visiting a local community center April 24, 2022. Paratroopers were able to engage, play, and learn from several Ukrainian families as they take refuge in Poland. The 82nd Airborne Division deployed to Poland as part of the strong and unremitting commitment to our NATO Allies in February 2022 to assure our Allies during this uncertain time.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Vincent Levelev)
Paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division spend time with Ukrainian children in Rzeszów, Poland while visiting a local community center April 24, 2022. Paratroopers were able to engage, play, and learn from several Ukrainian families as they take refuge in Poland. The 82nd Airborne Division deployed to Poland as part of the strong and unremitting commitment to our NATO Allies in February 2022 to assure our Allies during this uncertain time.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Vincent Levelev) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
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WASHINGTON — Soldiers are defined by the missions they are assigned, whether a specific task on base, a rescue operation or natural-disaster relief. The list of duties of Army Soldiers can go on and on. Soldiers, however, have been assigned an additional task of improving Family readiness, which is crucial to supporting service members and their Families, thereby ensuring mission success.

“Military-Family readiness refers to the preparedness and well-being of military Families. It encompasses a range of resources, programs and support systems designed to help service members and their Families cope with the unique challenges and demands of military life,” says Steve Yearwood, program analyst at the Directorate of Prevention, Resilience and Readiness. The Defense Department defines “Family readiness” as being prepared to effectively navigate the challenges of daily living experienced in the unique context of military service, including frequent moves, separation from loved ones, long work hours and deployments.

Across the Army’s components, 60 percent of all Soldiers have a spouse or dependents, which means the service has many more people to take care of than just its Soldiers. Family readiness is uniquely tied to Army morale, retention and readiness in that Soldiers’ trust in the service and its leaders is influenced by their perceptions of the care and concern shown to them.

With over half of Soldiers having a spouse or dependents, two major goals of the Army are making sure they are ready for the demands of military life and providing them with opportunities to strengthen their readiness and resilience. “When military Families are well supported and prepared, they provide a stable and resilient foundation for service members to focus on their mission,” says Yearwood.

Army Community Service (ACS) Programs and Services is one of the ways the Army is committed to building Family readiness. ACS covers everything from financial health to community resilience events. “Army Community Service is a comprehensive network of programs offered to the entire Army to assist Soldiers and their Families in meeting various challenges and improving their overall well-being,” Yearwood says. “The specific services ACS provides may vary between installations, but the overall aim is to enhance our Soldiers' and their Families' quality of life.” ACS programs and services are available to all Soldiers, from their first assignments all the way to separation or retirement. ACS also provides services to all members of the Army community, including Families, Department of the Army Civilians, veterans, wounded warriors, survivors and retirees.

At the Association of the United States Army annual meeting, three of the top five concerns Soldiers had directly involved spouses and dependents. Those three concerns were childcare, spousal employment, and Family housing and barracks. The Army has made improvements, such as expanding Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts, and announced temporary boosts in the basic housing allowance for high-demand geographic areas.

Sgt. Tatiana Morales Garcia, human resource specialist, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, sits with her aunt, Elizabeth Morales at the University of Louisville Cardinals Military Appreciation Day football game, Nov. 4, 2023, in Louisville. Morales Garcia reenlisted on the field during a halftime ceremony. Her family flew in from Puerto Rico to witness and celebrate with her.
Sgt. Tatiana Morales Garcia, human resource specialist, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, sits with her aunt, Elizabeth Morales at the University of Louisville Cardinals Military Appreciation Day football game, Nov. 4, 2023, in Louisville. Morales Garcia reenlisted on the field during a halftime ceremony. Her family flew in from Puerto Rico to witness and celebrate with her. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Barbara Gersna) VIEW ORIGINAL

As for spousal employment, one of the ways the Army is helping spouses is through the My Career Advancement Account Scholarship. The goal is to assist eligible miliary spouses in their pursuit or maintenance of a license, certificate or associate’s degree so that they can attain a job in their desired field. The MyCAA scholarship can provide up to $4,000 in tuition assistance. Military spouses who are interested in using this scholarship can call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to connect with a career coach from the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program.

Another valuable resource for Soldiers and their Families is the Army Family Action Plan. AFAP gives active and reserve Soldiers, Army Civilians, retirees and Family members (including those of deceased service members) a platform to voice quality of life issues through the Issue Management System. More than 700 issues have been raised, which resulted in 500 improvements through AFAP.

AFAP helps prioritize issues so that Army leadership can review and work on a solution. Yearwood shares that one of the issues that was recently addressed via AFAP was Soldier household goods (HHG) weight allowances.

“One of the recently resolved AFAP issues was about basing Soldier HHG weight allowances on the number of dependents. Although a change in the Joint Travel Regulation was warranted, it was not fully supported. The Army encourages individuals to submit an exception to policy that exceed their weight allowance and submit to G-4; however, the 18,000 pounds statutory cap remains in place. The process has been streamlined and incorporated into the PCS Move app,” said Yearwood. This issue was identified by Army community members, and a resolution was made to alter the HHG weight allowances. Although there has not been a change to the 18,000 pound cap, submitting exceptions to policy will provide Army leadership with a better example of the average HHG weight for Soldiers when they move. The Army also revised the process by incorporating filing the exception to policy into the PCS Moves app.

“AFAP ensures that the voices and concerns of the Army community, including Soldiers, Family members and Civilians, are heard and considered in the decision-making process. By involving the community, the Army gains diverse perspectives, allowing for a more comprehensive approach to resolving issues,” Yearwood says. “Involving the community fosters a sense of collaboration and ownership over problem-solving. It allows community members to actively participate in finding solutions, leading to increased engagement, buy-in and a shared responsibility for the well-being of the community.”

If you are a leader, DA Civilian, Soldier or Family member looking for more information on ACS or other DPRR programs, visit DPRR’s website.