By Elaine Wilson, AFPS
Oct. 5, 2009
I traveled to downtown D.C. yesterday on a quest to find out about the future of Army family programs. I was slated to attend a family forum during the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting.
My first impression was one of shock. The line to the forum’s entrance extended almost the length of the enormous convention center.
I quickly realized why the forum was standing-room only. Army Secretary John McHugh, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston were on hand to re-sign the Army Family Covenant.
First signed two years ago, the Army Family Covenant represents a commitment to improving quality of life for Army families and leaders’ recognition that the strength of soldiers comes from the strength of the families who support them.
As the Army’s top leaders re-signed the covenant, they were surrounded by Army families, with kids in tow, representing military families from around the world.
After the signing, the new Army secretary took the podium to thunderous applause.
McHugh, who was sworn in as the 21st Army secretary Sept. 21, said his past experience will serve him well in his new position, particularly in the arena of military family support. He served for 17 years on the House Armed Services Committee as chairman of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Panel and was the chairman on the subcommittee on personnel, he said.
“What I learned first and foremost, that this nation has an Army family,” he said. “That this nation, in order to continue to field the best, most effective military and Army the world has ever seen, we have to take care of the soldier and his or her families as well.”
McHugh wasn’t there when the first covenant was signed, he said, which made the symbolic re-signing all the more important.
“[I wanted] to assure you that all that is embodied in that pledge are things I believe in and whatever failures may follow me in my days ahead, failure to enact and to oversee … the family covenant will not be one of those failures,” he said. “We will succeed with this program.”
The secretary emphasized his gratitude for military families and their sacrifices.
“Most of all I wanted to tell you how much, how deeply we appreciate the sacrifice that you make while you’re home, while you’re allowing your soldiers, your spouses, your loved ones to go forward and take care of freedom for us overseas and deployments, while you take care of the force here at home.”
Visit Family Matters tomorrow for more on the AUSA family forum.