Collaboration is Key to Family Support Effort, Official Says

WASHINGTON — Col­lab­o­ra­tion is at the heart of the government’s new mil­i­tary fam­i­ly sup­port direc­tive and is the key to sup­port­ing ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies in the months and years ahead, a Defense Depart­ment offi­cial said today.

“We clear­ly are try­ing to find in every agency in the gov­ern­ment ways to col­lab­o­rate and work togeth­er so that we can do the job bet­ter,” John R. Camp­bell, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for wound­ed war­rior care and tran­si­tion pol­i­cy, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice. “Every­body believes now that col­lab­o­ra­tion is the future; it’s no longer going it alone.” 

Ear­li­er this week, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma unveiled a new, whole-of-gov­ern­ment approach to mil­i­tary fam­i­ly sup­port, with agen­cies unit­ing to cre­ate new resources and sup­port pro­grams for mil­i­tary fam­i­lies world­wide. From health care to child care to spouse employ­ment, Oba­ma announced the gov­ern­ment has made near­ly 50 com­mit­ments to improv­ing fam­i­lies’ qual­i­ty of life, which are out­lined in a White House Report, “Strength­en­ing Our Mil­i­tary Fam­i­lies: Meet­ing America’s Commitment.” 

Camp­bell high­light­ed a few of the col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts that fall under his purview: pro­grams that fos­ter fam­i­lies’ well-being and help wound­ed war­riors, ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies suc­cess­ful­ly tran­si­tion from mil­i­tary to civil­ian life. His area is work­ing close­ly, he added, with oth­er agen­cies as well as with oth­er offices with­in the Defense Department. 

The Defense and Inte­ri­or depart­ments, for exam­ple, will work togeth­er to offer wound­ed war­riors and their fam­i­lies oppor­tu­ni­ties to use Interior’s lands and recre­ation­al facil­i­ties for recov­ery, Camp­bell said. 

Through the use of its 500 mil­lion acres of pub­lic land and a host of recre­ation­al and edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams, “the Inte­ri­or Depart­ment will mod­i­fy ongo­ing pro­grams and ser­vices to accom­mo­date mil­i­tary fam­i­lies, espe­cial­ly wound­ed war­riors, in their efforts to regain psy­cho­log­i­cal health, rein­te­grate with fam­i­ly and reha­bil­i­tate,” the report said. 

“The Depart­ment of Defense and Inte­ri­or have a long­stand­ing rela­tion­ship,” said Robert G. Stan­ton, senior advi­sor to the sec­re­tary for the Inte­ri­or Depart­ment. “In fact, many his­toric mil­i­tary posts are pre­served and man­aged by the U. S. Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or, so work­ing to open these nation­al trea­sures to our wound­ed war­rior fam­i­lies is a nat­ur­al fit.” 

Camp­bell said he recent­ly vis­it­ed the Inte­ri­or Depart­ment to dis­cuss col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts and pro­grams with offi­cials there and saw an over­lay map of the department’s phys­i­cal resources. Many are close to war­rior tran­si­tion units, he observed. 

“There’s a real easy link between the phys­i­cal loca­tion of these war­rior tran­si­tion units and the phys­i­cal plan of the Inte­ri­or Depart­ment,” he said. The geog­ra­phy, he added, will help to fos­ter and ease the path to col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts, such as pro­grams for mil­i­tary chil­dren and employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties for spous­es and chil­dren on Inte­ri­or lands. 

Camp­bell also high­light­ed a new pro­gram in the works that’s designed to help wound­ed war­riors attain edu­ca­tion and employ­ment. DOD is work­ing with the Labor and Vet­er­ans Affairs depart­ments to cre­ate a pro­gram that will help wound­ed war­riors ear­ly on, he said, not­ing the impor­tance of pro­vid­ing tran­si­tion sup­port with­in the first 30 to 60 days to avoid feel­ings of isolation. 

“The pro­gram will start right away, as soon as they get into wound­ed war­rior tran­si­tion, with some edu­ca­tion, assess­ments [and] we’re link­ing up with men­tors,” he said. “It will give them the answers they need to help them make the tran­si­tion back into their com­mu­ni­ties, back into acad­e­mia or cor­po­rate life if that’s where they want to go.” 

Also aimed at eas­ing tran­si­tions, the Defense, Labor and Vet­er­ans Affairs depart­ments plan to revamp the Tran­si­tion Assis­tance Program’s employ­ment work­shop to include an “aggres­sive, hands-on, tai­lored work force readi­ness pro­gram for ser­vice mem­bers and their spous­es,” which includes employ­ment assis­tance dur­ing moves, the report said, mark­ing the first change to the work­shop por­tion of TAP in 19 years. 

Along with oth­er agen­cies, Camp­bell not­ed the impor­tance of col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts with­in DOD as well. His area, for exam­ple, is work­ing close­ly with the Pentagon’s office of mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ty and fam­i­ly pol­i­cy to cre­ate effec­tive pro­grams and initiatives. 

Camp­bell also stressed the impor­tance of com­mu­ni­ty involve­ment as pro­grams and ini­tia­tives evolve from the fam­i­ly sup­port direc­tive. He praised ongo­ing efforts by Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to enlist com­mu­ni­ties in the Defense Department’s efforts to ease rein­te­gra­tion for ser­vice mem­bers and their families. 

Many grass­roots orga­ni­za­tions are doing great work already, he said. He high­light­ed the efforts of Bar­bara Van Dahlen, founder of Give an Hour, which pro­vides free men­tal health ser­vices to troops and their fam­i­lies impact­ed by war. Van Dahlen, he explained, also has cre­at­ed a blue­print for how com­mu­ni­ties can get involved and help mil­i­tary fam­i­lies rein­te­grate back into soci­ety. Anoth­er orga­ni­za­tion called Still Serv­ing Vet­er­ans, he added, is doing great work with hous­ing, edu­ca­tion, jobs and coun­sel­ing assis­tance for return­ing ser­vice mem­bers in the Huntsville, Ala., area. 

Enlist­ing the help of these orga­ni­za­tions, agen­cies and oth­er divi­sions with­in DOD will ben­e­fit fam­i­lies nation­wide, he said. “The gov­ern­ment can’t do it alone,” he said. “We’re fool­ish if we think we can try.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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