Prioritize the List: What Are Your Needs?

Have you heard of the Army Family Covenant? It was signed a few days ago by General Casey.

"It was immediately clear to us that the Families were the most stretched, and as a result, the most stressed, part of the force, and that what we were asking those families was a quantum different than anything I expected we would ask," Gen. Casey said."It struck me that the best wasn't good enough. We have not, until this point, treated Families as the readiness issue that they are," he said last week when he announced the covenant during the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting. Gen. Casey said the Army wants to provide Soldiers and their Families with a level of support commensurate with their level of service, and the covenant is in direct response to concerns from Army Families. They are concerned about funding and support for Family programs, physical and mental healthcare, housing, education and childcare and employment opportunities for spouses.

In 2008, approximately 1.4 billion dollars has been pledged to help support those of us on the homefront. How will this money to be spent?

Well, in the case of Ft. Benning, dollars will fund the following:

At Benning, the money will be used to improve the Army quality of life by increasing the number of free child care hours for spouses of deployed Soldiers, waiving registration fees for youth sports programs, building new on-post child care centers, building new soldier barracks, and much more.

And at Ft. Polk:

Fort Polk will provide 16 yours of free respite child care per child per month for custodial parent/ guardian of children of deployed soldiers to allow for medical appointments, personal business, etc. Current full time patrons will receive 20 percent off of child care during deployment.

Families of deployed soldiers will also receive a 20 percent discount for all expanded youth programs.

These will include the youth services, sports fees and instructional classes for children as well as free bowling skills clinics and multiple aquatic programs.

The $1.4 billion, among other factors, will help those of you stationed in Germany, too:

After a couple of lean years, the fiscal picture for U.S. garrisons in Europe is much brighter this fiscal year, officials say.

"You're going to see more people in Army Community Services and with child care and youth programs," said Russell Hall, director of Installation Management Command-Europe.

"We'll have the opportunity to reduce rates and costs. You'll start seeing a lot of scaffolding with new (construction) projects."

Can you guess what the number one concern among the military spouses I deal with daily seems to be? Two guesses, and the first doesn't count. Yes - it's childcare. When you're mommy and daddy, you don't get down time, and that's a problem for military spouses with children who are dealing with frequent deployments. And it's not just about down time or preserving your sanity, it's also about how impractical it is for you to take your children with you everywhere you go; shopping, doctor's appointments, etc..

On our radio segment about SpouseBUZZ LIVE, TripleE said she hadn't had a break from her kids in a while, and the childcare offering prompted her to register for the event.

According to the Army Family Covenant, the $1.4 billion will be spent in a variety of ways:

Standardizing and funding existing Family programs and services

Increasing accessibility and quality of health care

Improving Soldier and Family housing

Ensuring excellence in schools, youth services, and child care

Expanding education and employment opportunities for Family members

Do you know how funds will be distributed and spent at your post?

I would love to hear from military spouses -- not just Army spouses -- on how you would prioritize the list above. What would you like to see more of, or less of? What do you need that you don't have? What can the military do, within reason, to make your lives easier?

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