Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, traveled to New Orleans yesterday to address some of the challenges confronting our military families.
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greets participants at the National Guard Bureau Family Workshop and Youth Symposium in New Orleans, Aug. 2, 2010. Chairman Mullen was the featured speaker at the event. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
Speaking to the National Guard Family Program Volunteer Workshop, Chairman Mullen stressed the need to close a gap for military families, particularly for those in the Guard and Reserve.
Guard and Reserve families often live far from the support of a military installation, he said, recalling when a National Guard woman traveled six hours to speak to his wife, Deborah.
The military needs to find ways to deal with this type of isolation, he said.
The chairman also spoke of the need to provide better support to military children, particularly in our nation’s schools. Training is needed to equip teachers to deal with the emotional impacts of deployments, war, and in some cases, loss. Teachers often are unaware that a student has a military parent, which can impede their ability to help the child, he said.
Chairman Mullen also vowed to eliminate the “yes-no” box that determines whether servicemembers’ units can contact their families during deployments. On some family readiness checklists, servicemembers can opt out of keeping their family members informed about family readiness information, benefits and entitlements.
“There are just too many spouses whose spouse deploys where that box is checked no,” he said. “In my time as chairman, I’m going to make that box go away.”
The military has a plethora of programs aimed at supporting military families, but the number of programs isn’t as important as the quality, Chairman Mullen said. “I don’t need any more programs,” he said. “I need the ones we have to really be working really well.”
Progress has been made, but much work remains to be done, Mullen said. “While we’ve done a great deal, we cannot rest on our laurels. [We must] stay focused in listening to our families.”