National Guard expands pilot child care program

By Sgt. 1st Class Zach Sheely,May 14, 2024

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief, National Guard Bureau, joins Cara Calvin-McFerren, mayor pro tem, West Liberty, Iowa, and Jessica Chang, chief executive officer, Upwards, to sign a pilot child care intergovernmental support agreement at the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia, May 13, 2024. The initiative helps Army National Guard Soldiers with community-based child care on drill weekends.
Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief, National Guard Bureau, joins Cara Calvin-McFerren, mayor pro tem, West Liberty, Iowa, and Jessica Chang, chief executive officer, Upwards, to sign a pilot child care intergovernmental support agreement at the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia, May 13, 2024. The initiative helps Army National Guard Soldiers with community-based child care on drill weekends. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Zach Sheely) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON – Army Guardsmen in 20 states now can access drill weekend child care after the National Guard’s most senior leader signed an agreement with public partners expanding a pilot program at a Pentagon ceremony May 13, 2024.

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief, National Guard Bureau, joined Cara Calvin-McFerren, mayor pro tem of West Liberty, Iowa, and Jessica Chang, chief executive officer of Upwards, for the signing, celebrating the expansion of a program to address an essential need for drilling Guardsmen.

“It is our people, our Soldiers and Airmen, who serve on the front lines, preserving peace and security throughout the world,” Hokanson said. “It is our people who respond to disasters in our communities, saving lives and restoring hope in the face of devastation. And it is our people who uphold our American values — democracy, opportunity and the rule of law — and model those values for our allies and partners around the world.

“But no one who serves in uniform serves alone. Our service is only possible with the support of our beloved families, who know both the pride and sacrifice of serving our nation.”

The Army National Guard Weekend Drill Child Care program enhances unit readiness, supports retention, alleviates financial burdens and harmonizes military commitments with parental responsibilities.

The program provides child care to the dependent children of married Soldiers with spouses working on drill weekends, Families with both parents serving in the Guard and single Soldiers. The initiative helps balance service obligations and family life and removes a potential barrier to enlistment and continuing service.

“Our National Guard families maintain an intricate balance: a civilian life, a civilian career and military service,” Hokanson said. “Complicating this balancing act is the community-based nature of our National Guard: While our Guardsmen live in nearly every ZIP code, they aren’t like active-duty military families who live on or near a base with a built-in support network. In fact, they might be the only family in their community who serves.”

This pilot program teams the Army National Guard with West Liberty, Iowa, and the Upwards child care network to help Guard families attain stability.

“The partnership with the U.S. Army, the National Guard, the Department of Defense and Upwards is a valuable resource to help our military men and women,” Calvin-McFerren said. “I would like to thank all for choosing West Liberty, Iowa, to join in this innovative program and support the most vital of our country’s military families.”

The pilot encompasses 20 states: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

The National Guard is the primary combat reserve of the Army and the Air Force, delivering 20% of the Joint Force manning structure.

About 430,000 Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen comprise the National Guard. On any given day, about 25,000 are on duty across every overseas combatant command, with another 20,000 typically supporting domestic and steady-state operations.

“When we support our National Guard families, we support the missions they make possible,” Hokanson said. “In taking care of our people — and taking care of their families — we help them keep our National Guard’s promise to the nation — a promise to be Always Ready, Always There.”

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