Summit looks at needs of military families
Hundreds of military families packed the Red Morgan Center on Fairchild Air Force Base, last Thursday, Aug. 14, to speak with Air Force personnel and congressional officials at the fourth Congressional Military Family Caucus Military Family Summit.
Founded in 2009, The Congressional Military Family Caucus seeks to educate congress on issues military families face, including education, childcare, health care, spousal employment and the effects of multiple deployments. The caucus also hopes to develop legislation to help military families.
The summit kicked off with opening remarks from Washington 5th District Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Georgia Rep. Sanford J. Bishop, who are co-chairs of the caucus. Both representatives encouraged the audience to bring their issues and be open about the difficulties they face.
“We’re shining a light on the challenges military families face,” Bishop said. “This provides a direction for us to educate congress and your feedback will point us where to go.”
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, James A. Cody, also spoke at the event. He gave accounts of how multiple deployments can affect families.
“(There were) 200,000 military moves (that) took place last year with many people going to new schools,” Cody said. “The family has to integrate into a community, into a new norm that they know won’t last that long.”
McMorris Rodgers, Bishop and Cody were joined by Cody’s wife Athena, Lt. Col. Lisa McLeod, 141st Maintenance Squadron commander and Janna Keller, 92nd Force Support Squadron airman to answer questions from the audience.
One of the issues raised related to health and the lack of services for soldiers sustaining injuries in combat, as well as delays for family members with disabilities.
Fairchild airmen contracts with United Healthcare Military and Veterans for health services. Several Fairchild said there was confusion following the transition to United Healthcare in 2013, yet health care administration has gotten smoother. McMorris Rodgers said she had spoken with United Healthcare and they are looking at the issue.
One parent brought up Fairchild’s child development center having 5-year-olds in the same classroom as younger students. Keller said she would look into making more activities for older children in the development center.
Michelle Aikman, a military spouse, was concerned about the increase of deployments, as well as cuts in benefits. She asked where “is the focus being put?”
Cody explained that by 2015, the Air Force will be the smallest it has been since its inception in 1947, with both the White House and Congress recommending cuts in spending. He added that the Air Force is being asked to provide the “greatest global reach in history.”
Bishop said that families’ welfare must be a priority but department personnel do not want to cut military readiness.
“The readiness of (the) force is tied into support of the families,” Bishop said. “With all of these issues that families are facing, we cannot afford to turn our backs and make them less of a priority. These issues are not created by your service but are a result of your commitment to service.”
Following the question and answer session, the summit had breakout sessions where families could personally discuss issues with the representatives and Air Force leadership.
Al Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.