The annual three day AUSA conference in Washington, D.C. is about the only place I can imagine seeing a huge room of Army spouses, most of them heavily involved in their Family Readiness Group, hold an audience of top Army leaders absolutely captive. Yes, the leaders are the ones giving the presentations, but it is the Q&A and feedback times that these family forums are really all about. And the leaders know it.
Today was day one of AUSA -- a conference you should attend if you ever have the chance. While, yes, it was Army-centric, just like last year, most of the issues pertain to everybody. So, non-Army spouses please, read on!
The forum today was a chance for attendees to put their issues before the top dogs. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and his wife Sheila, Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, installation management commanding general, the commanding generals of the Reserve and National Guard and the commanding general of Morale Welfare and Recreation all presented and took questions. The crowd was a solid mix of active, reserve and guard ladies.
The bulk of the forum time was, of course, devoted to the Caseys. Hearing them speak together is an absolute delight. As Nadine, a SpouseBUZZ reader we bumped into said, Mrs. Casey uses the word “we” a lot, making her listeners feel as if she is right there in the trenches dealing with the Army life with them.
Gen. and Mrs. Casey touched on a variety of subjects important to all Army spouses -- from the importance of taking time for yourself to Gen. Casey’s continued focus on fulfilling his promise of increasing dwell time.
It was while talking about the dwell time issue that Gen. Casey made a very valuable point that we probably do not think about enough. Once dwell time is increased, he pointed out, we spouses are going to have more time on our hands with our soldiers than we’ve ever had before. And when that happens we are going to have to deal with stuff.
He said it like this:
The question we’re wrestling with is -- OK, I’m going to be home for two years. What do I do now? ... There’s things we just haven’t had to do over the last [several] years. The most important thing we’re focusing on doing is building resiliency for the long haul.
What an interesting thought for milspouses. Once you start getting your husband home for two whole years at a time you are going to have to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly. What issues are you going to have to address that have just been ignored while he reset and then deployed yet again? Yes, having him home for comparatively long periods of time is going to be absolutely wonderful, but it may not be easy.
Gen. Casey also conducted his now infamous third annual audible poll on the Army’s progress on family covenant initiatives. This is hardly a scientific measurement and is, literally, based off “boos,” “ehs” and “yays” from the ladies in the room. Here’s how things stood today:
-- Standardizing family programs across installations. Response = mostly “ehs”
-- Running Army One Source. Response = resounding “yays”
-- The Family Readiness Support Assistant (FRSA) program = mostly “yays”
-- Providing care respite care for the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) = a lot of “boos” but some “yays”
-- Access to quality health care = mostly “boos”
-- Approving soldier and family housing = mostly “yays”
-- Providing access to excellent schools, youth services and childcare = very mixed
As Gen. Casey pointed out, how you feel about these issues depends on your personal experience. With the exception of the health care question, most of the responses were quite diverse. But then, what can you expect with a room full of military spouses?
Stay tuned to SpouseBUZZ for a recap of tomorrow’s forum on children and a video of our interview with Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch about what’s going on over at installation command. You can also watch a live stream of the family forums. Find all of the information and a link to the stream here.
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