FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii (Army News Service, Aug. 6, 2007) - Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and his wife, Sheila, witnessed the immediate impact of new Family support initiatives here Friday.

On July 13, Gen. Casey and Secretary of the Army Pete Geren directed that $100 million be applied to Army-wide Family readiness programs. Included in the order was the immediate hiring of 703 Family Readiness Support Assistants for active-duty units, 181 assistants for Reserve units and 127 for National Guard units.

"The administrative load on our FRG (Family Readiness Group) volunteers is too much to handle," said Mrs. Casey. "The feedback we're getting is that the Family Readiness Group Assistants are a blessing and we owe it to our Families to do everything we can for them."

The FRSAs will be hired regionally at first, and will gradually become available to each deploying battalion. Commanders have the flexibility to tailor the duties of FRSAs to best support unit needs, but duties typically include preparing pre-deployment or redeployment activities, developing unit newsletters, coordinating Family readiness training, and serving as a link between garrison support agencies and the unit.

The $100 million is expected to fund more than 50 programs and activities supporting Army Families. About $20 million of that will go to child care, according to Gen. Casey.
"I've asked the Fort Shafter CDC (Child Development Center) if they've seen the impact of that money here and they've said they had. They have received money for extended hours and additional pre-care," Gen. Casey said.

Garrison commanders now have the authority to expand Family support services through such ways as reducing fees and extending Child and Youth Services, expanding child care to help custodial parents and guardians, and tapping into off-post child care for geographically dispersed Families.

The focus on Army Families is just beginning, according to Gen. Casey, who said $4 billion will be designated for Family readiness groups over the next five years.

"The intent is to signal to everybody that we've heard you and we're listening," Gen. Casey said. "We're going to make sure we are resourcing Family programming at the level it's going to take to help our Families and our Soldiers who are pushed by the accumulative stress of numerous deployments."

"I understand what the Families are going through," added Mrs. Casey, who was recently separated from her husband for 32 months of deployment. "I want everyone to know that we are listening and hearing and doing everything we can to help make their lives easier. Help is on the way."

(Sgt. 1st Class Jason Shepherd writes for the U.S. Army, Pacific, Public Affairs.)