Army’s Focus On Families
May 16, 2007
The Army has recognized the impact that frequent deployments have on families, especially when those deployments are to dangerous places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. You might be interested in knowing what the Army is doing to focus on family members. For starters, US Army Chief of Staff General George Casey is currently making a tour of bases in the US and speaking with families. Casey says this has given him even deeper insight into the burden that is being carried by family members. According to Casey, their needs have grown as soldiers are leaving for second and third or even more tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
â€œWe need to do even more than we have in the past for families,â€ he said. â€œThey are carrying a burden here that is, frankly, more than I would have thought. Families tell us that we generally have the right programs, but we need to fund them evenly across the spectrum,â€ he said. â€œThen we need to standardize the services across the installations. They do tell me itâ€™s hard on the families, he said.â€
Letâ€™s look at the types of programs that the Army has available to assist family members, while their soldier is deployed, as well as when their soldier is at home. The programs are actually many. Some bases, however, due to their size, may not have as much financially available to use towards these programs that the larger bases do. Others run into situations where they offer programs to family members and they have little or no participation (Iâ€™ve seen this a lot, where programs are available and would be very helpful for family members, yet instead of participating, some family members are isolating themselves, even after theyâ€™re reached out to by Army and Unit personnel).
Iâ€™m going to highlight one program that is currently active in the US Army and has been since 1997. That program, the Strong Bonds program is a unit-based chaplain-led program that helps Soldiers and their families build stronger relationships. The mission of the program is to build Soldier readiness by providing them with skills they can use to strengthen their marriage and other relationships. There are 4 sub-programs to Strong Bonds.
- Single soldier program, which aids single soldiers in making wise choices and building life-long relationships.
- Couple program, which helps married soldiers in enhancing and strengthening their marriage.
- Family program, which helps couples with children learn to stay close in their family unit and teaches the parents skills
to be better parents.
- Deployment and Redeployment program, which helps single soldiers, married soldiers and their families cope with the
stressors that deployments and redeployments bring.
The Armyâ€™s position on why they feel that programs such as this are important is:
Healthy marriages contribute to a healthy Army, in turn securing the future force. With increasing demands placed on Army families and Soldiers, including frequent deployments and relocations, intimate relationships are tested and many marriages end in divorce. Research shows that training in communication, intimacy and conflict management increases marriage satisfaction and reduces rates of family violence.
In addition, about 30 % of first-term Soldiers drop out of the Army. It is believed that this drop out rate could be significantly reduced if the Soldier had strong support from his or her family and loved ones. Frequent deployments and reunions present an even greater challenge to families who may or may not have the coping skills to address such stresses.