By Mr. Paul Boyce (FORSCOM)July 13, 2007
Today the U.S. Army announced immediate steps to improve support to Army Families by authorizing and funding Family Readiness Support Assistants down to battalion level for all deploying units across the Army.
In his first act after being confirmed as Secretary of the Army, the Hon. Pete Geren ordered the immediate hiring of 703 additional Family Readiness Support Assistants for Active-duty units, 181 assistants for U.S. Army Reserve units, and 127 assistants Army National Guard units. Posted regionally at first, Reserve and Army Guard assistants will gradually grow to numbers to cover each deploying battalion. Additionally, Secretary Geren and Gen. George Casey Jr., Chief of Staff of the Army, directed $100 million to be immediately applied to Family readiness programs Army-wide.
"In our travels around the Army, Gen. Casey and I both hear the same things from our Family members: 'We handled that first deployment fine and, sure, the second deployment was a little tougher...but this third deployment is very hard,'" Mr. Geren said. "So the Chief and I want to immediately and directly impact in some positive way the cumulative effects these multiple deployments are having on our Families."
In an effort to mitigate the hardships that Soldiers and their Families face with numerous deployments, Family programs in place are being expanded and other programs are being implemented that directly support the Army Family. "Another thing Families tell us is, 'look, we don't need new programs, we need you to standardize and fund the programs we have,'" Casey said.
The Army's garrison commanders now have the authority to implement expanded services, as appropriate for their communities. These programs include recreational, child and youth programs, and Army community services. Some examples include reduced fees and extended Child and Youth Services to meet the needs of the working Army Family, expanded child care to help custodial parents and guardians, and off-post child care tapped for Families who are geographically dispersed. There are more than 50 programs and activities that support Army Families scheduled for expansion or implementation in the coming months.
The assigning of Family Readiness Support Assistants down to battalion level (units whose strength may vary between 300 - 1,000 Soldiers), will now place these key personnel even closer to the Families and communities they help daily. Family Readiness Support Assistants link Army Family members with a wide level of community-support agencies, such as Army Community Service and Chaplains. While job descriptions for most Family Readiness Support Assistants are similar, commanders have the flexibility to tailor the duties for their unique needs to best affect Family readiness. For instance, many Family Readiness Support Assistants develop and distribute unit newsletters or ensure telephone and E-mail trees are established, updated, and used so Family members receive critical information in a timely manner.
This type of support is particularly important in Army Reserve and Army National Guard units, where the Soldier and Family population is dispersed over wide areas: the Family Readiness Support Assistants become Families' links to "virtual installations" for support.
"This is not a quick fix; the Army is planning for the long-term," Gen.
Casey said, "These battalion-level Family Readiness Support Assistants are as important after a deployment as they are prior to a deployment, and funding existing programs will help mitigate some of the burdens created by the current deployment cycle. We will continue to look for more ways to help - we owe this to our Families, and these steps are just a 'down payment.' There is simply no longer any question that in an all-volunteer force, Family readiness equates to readiness of the force itself."
Information about Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs can be found at www.ArmyMWR.com, which also provides links to installation and installation MWR websites. Media seeking more information on Family Support Programs may contact Army Public Affairs at (703)-692-5743 or U.S. Army Public Affairs at (703) 697-2564.