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What are the challenges and opportunities facing military families and the best methods to support them?

The Committee on The Well-being of Military Families convened this past April 2018 at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC. for its 2nd meeting; an information-gathering session on the challenges and opportunities facing military families and the best methods to support them.

Several of the panelists in attendance were veterans and military family members. The sessions consisted of 3 panels of 4 invited guest speakers per topic. Each panelist shared information about their perspective on service members and their families, and committee members had an opportunity to ask questions of the panelists followed by Q & A’s by the audience. The committee is currently in the process of assembling materials that it will examine before making any recommendations based on their findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

The National Academy of Sciences serves as the science advisor for the nation. When tasked with a research project, such as assembling a committee to study the well-being of military families, the academy forms a committee of experts who are selected based on their expertise in their subject matter. The experts come together for a series of meetings and deliberations over a period of time, at the end of which a report is produced detailing the committee’s work, its findings, conclusions and its recommendations.

Kenneth W. Kizer, Veteran of the U.S.Navy, is the Committee Chair for this study. At the start of the meeting, he welcomed the panelists and explained the purpose of the information-gathering session as 3-fold:

  1. To understand who constitutes the diverse array of families that are collectively known as military families, and the unique challenges and opportunities that they face.
  2. To identify the strategies and programs designed to support military families.
  3. To assess which of these strategies and programs have worked or are working well; which ones are not, and to identify the gaps in supporting services.

Below, are the videos recorded by the National Academy of Sciences during the information-gathering session, organized according to panels, themes, and expertise.

Panel 1:

Focuses on Families Underrepresented in the Research –Military Families and their Well-Being

Ashley Broadway-Mack, President of The American Military Partner Association, represents the LGBT military community: “Our community still has a long way to go about being equal, not just in the military, but in our country.” 

Karen Ruedisueli, National Military Family Association, represents Single-Parents and non-traditional families: “Single service members with kids make up 6% of the total force; 21% of single-parents are ranked E-1 to E-4, and 2/3 single-parent military are males.” 

Chaplain (COL) Jimmy Nichols, Installation Chaplain, Fort Sill, OK. represents“The Strong Bonds program, which helps families withstand the separations.” 

Ed Tyner, represents the Office of Family Readiness/Office of Special Needs, which “ensures that the special needs of a family member are considered when PCSing.”


Panel 2:

Focuses on Representatives of the National Guard and Reserves and learning about their well-being, needs, and services. 

Kelly Hokanson, spouse of National Guard Bureau’s, Vice Chief, LTG Daniel R. Hokanson gives her perspective on family life.

Jill Marconi, Airforce, Airman & Family Readiness, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, represents airforce reserves. “Reservists are a critical part of the total force. The Airforce reserve is a force of 68,000 combat ready reserve citizen airmen.” 

Susan Lukas, Legislation & Mil Police/Air Force-Reserve Officers Association. “By the numbers, there are over 800,000 total reserve component members, including national guard and reserve.”

Anthony A. Wickham, J1 Programs Chief, National Guard Bureau. “Family Assistants are out in the fields providing referrals and resources.” 


Panel 3:

“There is something really important about being a military spouse.” 

Col. (Ret) Anthony Cox, Army, former manager HQFA Family, Advocacy Program. “After 34 years in uniform, I really appreciated my time, but I know that I volunteered; I got to have a lot of fun; I got promoted; I got fancy awards; my wife, I think, did all the work…She has a magnet on the fridge that says, don’t confuse your rank with my authority.” 

Ellyn Dunford, spouse of Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We have had this history of spouses, since Martha Washington, making sure that our service members and our services could function.” 

Donald R. Neff, Preservation of the Force and Family, U.S. Special Operations Command. “Meet the families where they are. That has been our approach all along.” 

Elka Franco-Giordano, Chief of Naval, Operations Ombudsman-at-Large, and spouse of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven S. Giordano. An enlisted senior’s spouse shares her experiences. “Having to move our daughters 9 times and make those changes for them was difficult….Getting in and out of the workforce for me, was also difficult.” 

 

For its final report, the committee will make informed recommendations on how best to support and protect military families in the diverse challenges that they face. The research seeks to identify the current types of support provided for military families by the Department of Defense and to delve into the effects of frequent moves, trauma, and financial stress on military children’s social-emotional, physical, biochemical, and psychological development. Resilience is an important topic, and so is the identification of what is needed to strengthen the support system for military families, including families who have left the military.

To visit the complete video archives, presentations and to check for updates on The Committee on The Well-being of Military Families, visit the National Academy of Sciences, Board of Children, Youth, and Families.

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