By Michelle Kennedy, Fort Drum Public AffairsNovember 7, 2011
FORT DRUM, N.Y., Nov. 7, 2011 -- Secretary of the Army John McHugh traveled to Fort Drum to welcome the new commanding general of the "Climb to Glory" Division, Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, and his wife Hollyanne, and to bid farewell to outgoing commander Maj. Gen. James L. Terry and his wife, Julie.
McHugh, who hails from upstate New York, said it was "good to be home."
"This was the fifth time in two and a half years that I was actually able to spend the night in my own bed -- really my own bed," McHugh said, adding he was glad to get a home-cooked meal from his mom.
"(Being home is) always a special occasion, but the real reason was to join in all the voices in the North Country and say a deep and sincere 'thank you' and 'best wishes' to Major General James Terry, and his wife Julie, for an incredible amount of service," he continued.
Terry, who will soon take command of V Corps in Heidelberg, Germany, will lead one of the "most critical posts" in the Army, according to McHugh.
McHugh met with Terry and his senior enlisted adviser, Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher K. Greca, while they commanded Regional Command-South in Afghanistan.
"I traveled around the region with them just see the incredible job James did along with his terrific team," McHugh said. "We couldn't have a picked a better leader to pick up the important post of leading V Corps."
McHugh heard firsthand what a role spouses and families play in the Army during an award ceremony before the change of command.
"Julie has been just a terrific volunteer and a terrific leader, taking care of the home fires for all of the Soldiers' families here at the 10th (Mountain Division)," McHugh explained. "We'll miss them all, but I feel great about the fact that we've had them for some seven terrific years and to just know they'll be back to say 'hi.'"
After the ceremony, the Secretary of the Army prioritized meeting with wounded warriors, family members, family readiness support assistants and Soldiers in his last few hours home. With the whispers of budget cuts creeping into conversations at many Army posts, McHugh said he wanted to help explain the truth.
McHugh said one of his major concerns is protecting family programs.
"This is a family-based Army, not like it was, say 20 years ago," he explained.
During his meeting with FRSAs and senior spouses, they had the chance to personally tell McHugh what Army programs their Families use most, ways to improve them and programs that need improvement. The most talked about services were child care, Military Family Life Consultants and the role of Family Readiness Support Assistants, or FRSAs, in the brigade and battalion environment.
"We're taking a hard look at family programs, not to cut them necessarily, but to make sure we're delivering them in ways that make sense," he said, adding that during the past three years, the Army increased family programs from about $600 million to $1.2 billion.
Army leaders are looking at different programs to figure out which ones are benefiting Soldiers and families and to identify redundant and under used services, McHugh explained.
"When you are at war, some people tend to forget that the first thing you have to do is take care of those warfighters -- make sure they have the training, equipment and everything they need when they're deployed and that's our job," McHugh said.
But care for the warfighter is closely tied to care for the family.
"(Subsequently), what I'm concerned about is the families, an important part of the Army team. You can't have an effective war fighter if he or she is in Afghanistan or Iraq if they're worried about their family being taken care of," he continued.
The budget cuts are also affecting Army civilians.
"We have to reduce our current levels across the Army by almost 9,000 (civilians). We're working on doing that, and based on how the budget comes out, we may have to go further. Those are the kinds of challenges we're working as we speak."