The Army is doubling its investment in family and soldier support programs in the 2009 budget.
Next year's budget for family support programs will be $1.4 billion, up from $700 million last year. Army Secretary Pete Geren says the decision was made by Army leaders after traveling to different bases and talking with soldiers and spouses.
Army families say child care and family support are important issues for troops. For those reasons, the money will be used to hire support personnel for family readiness groups (FRG), improve child care, and expand educational opportunities for spouses and children of troops, the Army secretary said Wednesday.
"So much of the family support over the years has been based on volunteers, where you have spouses that carry the heaviest burden for family support initiatives," Geren said. "One deployment, perhaps that works; two deployments, that's starting to be too much to ask; and three deployments is pushing those volunteers to the breaking point."
To remedy this problem, Geren said, the Army will use its expanded budget to hire full-time support personnel for family readiness groups to help spouses who also have to balance career and family responsibilities. They will also hire more staff for child care and youth services.
The secretaries of defense and labor are also working on another big issue Army families say they are faced with: employment for spouses. Officials realize repeatedly relocating makes it difficult to maintain a career or get an education. Therefore, the Army has started the spouse employment partnership, which will work with industries across the country to provide greater spousal employment opportunities, Geren said.
Geren also addressed improvements the Army has made in medical care for wounded soldiers by establishing 35 warrior transition units, which are aimed solely at helping wounded soldiers recover. Officials say 2,500 personnel have been hired to assure that every soldier assigned to a warrior transition unit will have three people who are responsible for him - a squad leader, a nurse case manager and a primary care physician. Army officials say these measures have been made to ensure all that soldier's needs are met, both physically and mentally.
"The whole concept of the warrior transition unit is to provide this triad of support that meets the full range of a warrior in transition's care and needs," he explained.
This summer, the Army is launching a program to educate all soldiers on suicide prevention, Geren said. This program is following on the success of the education program on post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, he said, and every soldier will be required to take the course.