WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff vowed today to eliminate the “yes-no” box that appears on some predeployment checklists that determines whether a servicemembers’ units can contact their families during deployments.
“There are just too many spouses whose spouse deploys where that box is checked no,” Navy Adm. Mullen said while addressing the National Guard Family Program Volunteer Workshop in New Orleans. “In my time as chairman, I’m going to make that box go away.”
On some predeployment family readiness checklists, servicemembers can opt out of keeping their family members informed about family readiness information, benefits and entitlements.
The eradication of the “yes-no” box will require a joint effort, the chairman said. “This has to be actively pursued from within,” he said, “from the grassroots level up to the commanders so that we can make it go away.”
This effort will be a step toward keeping families better informed, and also will help to close a gap, particularly for Guard and Reserve families who often are far from the support of a military installation, Mullen said, noting that when his wife, Deborah, was visiting a base, a National Guard spouse drove six hours to see her.
The military needs to find ways to deal with that type of isolation, the chairman said.
The military has a plethora of programs aimed at supporting military families, but the number of programs isn’t as important as the quality, Mullen noted. “I don’t need any more programs,” he said. “I need the ones we have to really be working really well.”
Mullen also spoke of the need to provide better support to military children, particularly in the nation’s schools. Training is needed to equip teachers to deal with the emotional impacts of deployments, war, and in some cases, loss, he said. In many cases, teachers are unaware of a student’s military ties until someone actively interacts with them to try and close the gap, he added.
The need for outreach is widespread, Mullen said, citing an example of chaplains reaching out to community churches.
“I would hope that our programs from a military standpoint run in parallel and support community-based programs,” he said.
America will be better able to overcome challenges within the military, particularly on the veteran side, if “we join hands” between the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and communities, Mullen said.
Military leaders also can play a role by reaching out to community members who want to help but don’t always know how to connect with the military, the chairman added. “There are many, many more things to do,” he said. “While we’ve done a great deal, we cannot rest on our laurels. [We must] stay focused in listening to our families.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)