USA — Mullen: Family Support Vital to War Effort

NEW ORLEANS — Mil­i­tary readi­ness is direct­ly tied to fam­i­ly readi­ness, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Nation­al Guard fam­i­ly pro­gram vol­un­teers here yes­ter­day.

2010 National Guard Family Program Volunteer Workshop in New Orleans, Aug. 2, 2010
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks with Elaine Wright, who vol­un­teers with the Mary­land Nation­al Guard’s fam­i­ly pro­grams, at the 2010 Nation­al Guard Fam­i­ly Pro­gram Vol­un­teer Work­shop in New Orleans, Aug. 2, 2010.
U.S. Army pho­to by Staff Sgt. Jim Green­hill
Click to enlarge

“This is our ninth year at war,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said. “We con­tin­ue at a lev­el that has gen­er­at­ed extra­or­di­nary results from the best mil­i­tary that I have ever been asso­ci­at­ed with in some 40-plus years.”

Pro­vid­ing sup­port to fam­i­lies of Guard mem­bers has been a vital com­po­nent to mis­sion suc­cess, Mullen told the vol­un­teers. “We could­n’t be any­where close to where we are with­out you,” he said.

The Nation­al Guard has trans­formed since Sept. 11, 2001, Mullen said. “There’s no insti­tu­tion where things have changed more dra­mat­i­cal­ly than in the Guard,” he said. “We would not be any­where close to where we are in terms of our exe­cu­tion of mis­sion with­out the Guard and reserve.”

And like oth­er ele­ments of the armed forces, the chair­man said, the Guard has improved its fam­i­ly pro­grams. “You rep­re­sent the best of the best,” Mullen told atten­dees at the 2010 Nation­al Guard Fam­i­ly Pro­gram Vol­un­teer Work­shop.

“You rep­re­sent so much of what Amer­i­ca is, com­ing from every sin­gle com­mu­ni­ty across the land,” Mullen told the group. “Thanks for your ded­i­ca­tion. Thanks for your ser­vice. Thanks for car­ing about those who are serv­ing and who are sac­ri­fic­ing.”

Fur­ther improve­ment in fam­i­ly readi­ness can be achieved across the mil­i­tary, Mullen said, but that does not mean new pro­grams. “We have seen our pro­grams mul­ti­ply by the dozens,” he said. “I don’t need any more pro­grams. I need the ones we have to real­ly be work­ing well.”

States, ter­ri­to­ries and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia should share best prac­tices to improve exist­ing pro­grams, Mullen said. “We don’t have time to have every­body devel­op­ing a best prac­tice,” he explained. “Exchang­ing ideas … on what’s work­ing and what isn’t is absolute­ly crit­i­cal.”

Com­mu­ni­ty-based sup­port can be improved, Mullen said, and the same is true of efforts to elim­i­nate the stig­ma sur­round­ing the seek­ing of help for treat­ment of trau­mat­ic brain injury and post-trau­mat­ic stress. Oth­er impor­tant issues, he said, include home­less­ness among vet­er­ans, med­ical plans, sui­cide pre­ven­tion and pro­grams for wound­ed war­riors.

“The empha­sis is on dis­abil­i­ty and mon­ey,” Mullen said. “The empha­sis needs to be on abil­i­ty and on peo­ple and on their future.”

It was the chairman’s sec­ond vis­it to a Nation­al Guard Fam­i­ly Pro­gram Vol­un­teer Work­shop. He first attend­ed the annu­al event in 2008.

“To me, this is an inspi­ra­tional group,” Mullen said after his vis­it with work­shop atten­dees. “They care a lot, they work the issues, and there is a lot of capa­bil­i­ty there.”

Through­out the armed ser­vices, “we have made enor­mous improve­ments in focus­ing on our fam­i­lies,” Mullen said.

“I don’t think any of us can rest on our lau­rels,” he added, “and we need to move for­ward.”

Lead­er­ship needs to look at what has gone well and seek to fill any gaps to ensure fam­i­lies’ needs are being met, the chair­man said.

“This is not an infi­nite list,” Mullen said. “It is schools. It is child care. It is med­ical care. It is … prepa­ra­tion for deploy­ment. It is what we do on deploy­ment. What do we do when we get back? … And address the stress lev­els, which are clear­ly there, and it’s some­thing that’s going to be with us for a sig­nif­i­cant peri­od of time.”

Address­ing sui­cide in the armed forces, Mullen said every­one has a respon­si­bil­i­ty to attack the prob­lem. “Lead­er­ship has to stay focused on this,” he said. “I’m talk­ing about lead­er­ship at the E‑4, E‑5 and E‑6 lev­el. All of us have a respon­si­bil­i­ty.

“It’s a very com­plex prob­lem,” he con­tin­ued. “We need to under­stand it. We need to thor­ough­ly con­duct train­ing so peo­ple under­stand symp­toms and can head this thing off. Often­times, bud­dies and fam­i­lies are the first ones that see the symp­toms.”

Increased time at home between deploy­ments as oper­a­tions in Iraq wind down will help, Mullen said.

“That will take some of the pres­sure off,” he told the group. “That said, it’s not just all about deploy­ments, because there have been an awful lot who have com­mit­ted sui­cide that haven’t deployed, so there’s a com­plete­ly com­pre­hen­sive approach that has to be tak­en here.”

2010 is a year of increas­ing dis­cus­sion about the future of the trans­formed Nation­al Guard. The Guard’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in over­seas oper­a­tions has trans­formed the force, Mullen said. “That par­tic­i­pa­tion fun­da­men­tal­ly changes every unit that goes,” he said. “It changes the whole mil­i­tary mix in that state, and we need to learn from that.

“Longer term,” he con­tin­ued, “what does a strate­gic reserve look like? What does an oper­a­tional reserve look like? And what’s the rota­tion­al cycle? That’s still all to be deter­mined.”

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

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