USA — Mullen Seeks End to ‘Yes-No’ Box on Predeployment Checklists

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)

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