By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2012 – Military families now have greater access to programs designed to assist them with a spectrum of family support matters, a senior Pentagon official said here today.
Charles E. Milam, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service that the enhanced programs are in accordance with President Barack Obama’s recently signed proclamation declaring November as Military Family Month.
“Our families serve, just as the military does,” he said. “They are critical to the mission.”
The Defense Department strives to direct programs that help military families with a range of issues, from installation and school transitioning, facilitating employment for spouses and nonmedical military counseling services, Milam explained.
“Our family support centers have an array of programs to help them with transition,” Milam said. “We also have Military OneSource, which offers financial counseling, tax preparation and help with making informed decisions in home buying and selling.” Reaching out to family members is critical, he added, given that 75 percent of service members and families reside off-base.
Pentagon officials also will continue to work closely with the “Joining Forces” initiative championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden. Joining Forces focuses on education, employment and wellness.
“Yesterday, the DOD signed on 32 new companies for its Military Spouse Employment Partnership initiative,” Milam said. “In the past year, over 800,000 jobs have been posted, and over 32,000 spouses have been hired.”
In addition to the military spouse employment element, DOD officials seek to connect partner companies in other areas such as child care, fitness and recreation in various communities, Milam said. The intent, he explained, is to connect the American public with DOD services and family members to better foster an understanding of the unique challenges they face.
“Partners are incredibly important — we can’t do this alone,” Milam said, citing the 161 current community partnerships now in effect.
Prolonged stress from more than a decade of war calls for assistance to and recognition of military families, Milam said. “After 11 years of combat,” he added, “our families have sacrificed quite a bit, and the stress is out there.”
To ensure the programs are customized to family needs, a new DOD military spouse survey launches Nov. 19. The biennial survey gives officials critical feedback to develop initiatives. “We use surveys like this to help us shape our programs, to make sure we have the pulse of what military spouses need and what they deserve,” Milam said.
DOD officials also will develop applications that cater to the needs of the information-focused millennial generation, Milam said.
“We have to continually evaluate our programs to ensure that they’re on target and meeting the needs of our service members and their families,” Milam said. “We want resilient military members, and we also want resilient families.”