Forum shares best practices, advice on reducing stress on Soldiers, Families
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Jan. 27, 2010) -- Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, <a href="" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Installation Management Command</a> commanding general, has spent his years of service leading Soldiers in battle and making sure families are taken care of at home. "But one young second lieutenant," he told 1,200 Army morale, welfare and recreation employees attending a three-day conference here, "made me understand the importance of what family and MWR team members do."

Lynch was speaking at the opening session of the Soldier Family Action Plan symposium, which brings expert advice and best practices from the field to help guide <a href="" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation</a> professionals through the Army's cultural and business transformation. The goal is to provide quality programs to reduce stress on Soldiers and families.

"Every time I see a Soldier, I always thank him for his service," Lynch said. "But this one second lieutenant, who was going on his third deployment, leaving a wife and three kids behind, thanked me by saying, 'I can focus on the fight because you're focusing on my family.'"

"You are touching the soul of the Army," Lynch said. "When you go back to your garrisons with what you've learned here, you will make a difference."

By the end of the three-day conference participants will: create new strategies to infuse the human dimension into <a href="" target=Aca,!A?_blank">FMWR</a> programs at the garrison; create ways and means to communicate these strategies to the internal and external customers at the garrison; and develop an individual action plan on what they can do for their customers, their employees and themselves.

"We're excited to learn more about creating new strategies into family and MWR programs at the garrison," said Rachel Kennedy, from Child, Youth and School Services in Ansbach, Germany.

"This is also the time when we can meet people and network," added Caitlin Smith, from financial management at Stuttgart, Germany.

Lynch told the gathered team that there will be no negotiation when it comes to fully funding <a href="" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Family and MWR</a> programs.

"Chief of Staff General George Casey said we will fund, 100 percent, to take care of families and we will do it in this cost-saving culture without impacting families. We will synchronize Army programs by taking a close look at them and eliminating or consolidating some in order to save money, while adapting others."

To ensure everyone knows about the programs and what's needed, and to get input on what needs changing, the number one item on Lynch's agenda is strategic communications. Following close behind is sharing best practices.

"We fail as an Army to share best practices. My challenge to every one of you is to share two or three things that you're doing at your garrison so the rest of us can learn from them," Lynch said.

Also high on his priority list is to ensure the <a href="" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Survivor Outreach Services</a> program for families is supported. "For the families who have lost someone, their tragedy continues. Go back to your garrisons and please look at the <a href="" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Survivor Outreach Services</a> programs. Insure we have the right people running the program."

"I'm on the campaign to stamp out stupid," Lynch said when summing up what he thought about waste and mismanagement. This remark resonated throughout the crowd and inspired later speakers to comment on the use of such succinct, accurate and easily remembered phrases.

Another or Lynch's priorities is already being addressed with Gen. Casey's <a href="" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Comprehensive Soldier Fitness</a> program, which began this month for families.

"We spend too much time fixing problems when families break and not enough time helping them before they break," Lynch said. "We need to build resiliency in our families through emotional, physical and spiritual programs. Our families need comprehensive fitness just as much as Soldiers do."

Lynch encouraged the assembled <a href="" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Family and MWR</a> employees to place their families first.

"When I visit a cemetery I look at the grave stone and notice the dates of the person buried there. There's the start date and the end date. In between there's a dash. The dash is the most important part of that grave stone. How do we live the dash between those two dates'"

He left the attendees with some additional food for thought before they headed out to pack in as much training and education they could handle over the following three days.

"Don't be a 'we-be' when you listen to the leaders who are excited about their programs. You know, don't be the person who says, 'we be here when you came, and we be here when you leave.' Take what you've learned at these sessions and build on them, promote them and keep the excitement high," Lynch said.

While the symposium promised to be an intense program of training and education, it also promised a fun time for MWR employees. With nine plenary sessions and an additional 10 breakout sessions required to receive credit in MWR Academy training. A video diary was also offered so conference attendees could share their thoughts on camera about their symposium or their family and MWR experience. The diary will be posted online and shared with the workforce.

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