Top Official: Don't Just Be Worried - Be Informed

Yours isn’t the only military family who would be impacted by budget cuts. The Army’s top enlisted couple is right there with you.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler and his wife, Jean, spent about 30 minutes in a wide ranging interview with me March 7 talking through issues, including how the budget cuts are going to impact military families, including theirs.

“There are changes that are going to happen in the Department of Defense. There are significant challenges based off the budget we are able to operate with. So I think everyone should be concerned about the defense of our nation and what the impact is to soldiers and families,” SMA Chandler said. “Just personally I’m interested in my retirement plan -- I am. …  And we’ve invested a lot of time into this life. And I, personally, would like to keep the same plan that I came into the Army with.”

Chandler said he has been assured by Pentagon and congressional officials that currently serving members will be able to keep the retirement plan they were promised when they joined-up.

But, as we’ve learned over the past week, not all benefits may be that safe. The Chandlers said they also regularly use the commissary, buy gas on post and in the past have used the on-post school and daycare systems.

“I don’t think Army families are any different than anyone else,” Jeanne Chandler told me.

The best thing military families can do to prepare for the budget cuts, they said, is to be informed about what changes may be in the works while getting their own financial house in order.

“First of all, people have to be prepared for the future. By saying that [I mean] you should have some type of plan that allows you to have savings and some kind cushion,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler told me. “You’ve got to know beyond a 15 second news show what the actual details are about what the changes are. What are the actual recommendations and, if enacted, what do those proposals do for me? Be armed with intelligence and information that shows the whole picture.”

The Chandlers told me just like many Army families they also regularly shop in the commissary and see that as an important benefit, especially to families and soldiers who may not have a way to get anywhere else.

“If I need some kind of unique, little teeny tiny potato, I go to Harris Teeter,” she said. “But for the most part we do shop at the commissary because, as you know if you shop there, there are savings.”

She said that if prices go up, though, as they might under the new budget proposal, she is probably going to look around.

“I think that I would have to do a little bit of comparison shopping,” she said.

Mrs. Chandler sits on the DoD’s Military Family Readiness Council as the only senior spouse. She often travels with her husband to Army posts, camps and stations around the country and uses the opportunity to hold meetings with other senior enlisted spouses as well as junior FRG leaders.

“Those young folks will tell you where the rubber hits the road,” she says. “They’ll absolutely tell you what’s going on.”

All of the information she gathers goes into a trip report which is then reviewed by senior Army officials.

SMA Chandler told me if you are an Army family member with an Army life worry or concern that he help with, we should reach out to him and pass it on. Go ahead and leave your thoughts in the comments and we'll forward to him the ones we can!


Image by SpaceOdissey, resized and used under Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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