Army families got the chance to tell senior leaders what really grinds their gears at AUSA


VIDEO: Chris Capelluto reviews the military's decision to switch from the 5.56mm round to the 6.8mm SPC.

On Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference, Army families had the opportunity to tell senior leaders exactly what was going on in their worlds — an opportunity that is, unfortunately, all too rare.

There's something about airing your grievances to Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, and Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston that gives new meaning to the idea of raising an issue up the chain of command. And while McCarthy and Grinston offered insight and assistance, it became clear this was McConville's show.


But the entire forum can perhaps be boiled down to a point made by an active-duty mom and spouse: "In the big picture, it's not happening."

She was referring to the processing for employment through the Army's Civilian Personnel Advisory Centers, which can help spouses find job opportunities after relocating due to a service-related move. She said that the time it takes to process offers leaves spouses sitting in the queue for weeks at a time.

"I sat in there for several weeks until I called and had to push it through the system. Is there a way to make that a little bit faster?" she said. "It's translating to our families' financial readiness, And we need to be able to give them that stability."

But the sentiment stands for a lot of things the Army is working on. While the top may be demanding change, the bureaucratic wheels of an organization as large as the Army often turn at a glacial pace, and that change may not trickle down to the people who need it the most.

The issues brought up ran the gamut — childcare for terminally-ill soldiers; family readiness; licensure reimbursements; background checks for PCS moving companies; and even the possibility of longer tours for families.

A couple on Facebook asked if leadership would consider four-year minimums at duty stations to lessen the number of PCS moves soldiers and their families take, and to have "stability for families." Both McCarthy and McConville said they were on board.

"If we can accommodate that, why shouldn't we?" McConville said. "It's getting out of the industrial age personnel management system where everyone moves at three years — that's just the way we do it because that's the way we've always done it."

One woman said her family has been "caught in the middle" of the opioid epidemic, as he's unable to get the pain medication he needs for a "debilitating blood condition that causes severe pain.

"Is there a way that they can be flagged in the system so that we are not feeling like we're dehumanized, being ostracized, feeling like we're abusers because they need this pain medication?" she asked.

Maj. Gen. Scott Dingle, the Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of U.S. Army Medical Command, responded that her comment was heard, and that he would "get your specific information to make sure not just yours, but other families in the same conditions are also addressed and we'll jump on it."

McConville hasn't been shy about making soldiers and their families his priority as Chief, and on Tuesday hours before the family forum, he released the Army People Strategy, honing in on five priorities: Housing, health care, child development centers and child youth services, spouse employment, and PCS moves.

One of the hottest topics in the Army — and across the Defense Department as a whole — is military housing, so it wasn't surprising when it came up more than once. One Army retiree spouse asked senior leaders what lessons they learned with privatized housing, and how they would apply those to the privatization in other areas of the service.

One of the biggest lessons that McConville mentioned was keeping the chain of command involved. Grinston echoed that, saying that sergeants need to be empowered to help people — not just on housing, but any issue that comes up — and to not give up until the person with the problem has gotten the right answer.

"You actually have to take some action. Maybe you've got to put down the cell phone, look people in the eye and actually talk to them. And then, you don't just hand them off to somebody else," Grinston said. "You need to actually do something and say something and go, 'Well that's not right. I don't know the solution, but I'm going to take you over to the platoon sergeant and if he doesn't know, I'm going to take you to the company commander, the battalion commander, and if I have to I'm going to go to the division commander because we're going to fix this.'

"Sometimes it doesn't take a general officer to do it, it just takes a sergeant who's willing to say this isn't right, and we need to fix it."

(Air Force photo / Tech Sgt. Oneika Banks)

Kirtland Air Force Base isn't much different from the world beyond its gates when it comes to dealing with mental illnesses, a base clinical psychologist says.

Maj. Benjamin Carter told the Journal the most frequent diagnosis on the base is an anxiety disorder.

"It's not a surprise, but I anticipate about anytime in the population in America, about 20% of the population has some form of diagnosable anxiety disorder, and it's no different in the military," he said.

Leading the way among the anxiety disorders, he said, were post-traumatic stress disorder "or something like panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder."

Read More
(National Archives / Marine Corps Photo / WO Obie Newcomb, Jr., November 1943)

The DNA of a niece and nephew, who never met their uncle, has helped identify the remains of the Kansas Marine who died in WWII.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that 21-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Raymond Warren was identified using DNA and circumstantial evidence. Warren had been buried in a cemetery in the Gilbert Islands, where he was killed when U.S. forces tried to take secure one of the islands from the Japanese.

The Battle of Tarawa lasted from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, 1943, and claimed the lives of 1,021 U.S. marines and sailors, more than 3,000 Japanese soldiers and an estimated 1,000 Korean laborers before the U.S. troops seized control, the agency said.

Read More
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt. Daniel Snider)

Arizona lawmakers are vowing to fight a plan by the Air Force to start retiring some of the nation's fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jets — a major operation at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base — as part of a plan to drop some older, legacy weapon systems to help pay for new programs.

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former A-10 pilot, and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., both vowed to fight the move to retire 44 of the oldest A-10s starting this year.

During a press briefing last week, Air Force officials unveiled plans to start mothballing several older platforms, including retiring some A-10s even as it refits others with new wings.

Read More

MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was filmed riding through the snow on a white stallion last year, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on 12 purebred horses from Russia, according to Russian customs data.

Accompanied by senior North Korean figures, Kim took two well-publicized rides on the snowy slopes of the sacred Paektu Mountain in October and December.

State media heralded the jaunts as important displays of strength in the face of international pressure and the photos of Kim astride a galloping white steed were seen around the world.

North Korea has a long history of buying pricey horses from Russia and customs data first reported by Seoul-based NK News suggests that North Korea may have bolstered its herd in October.

Read More
Screenshot of a propaganda video featuring former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A high-profile local Taliban figure who announced and justified the 2012 attack on teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has escaped detention, Pakistan's interior minister confirmed a few days after the militant announced his breakout on social media.

Former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who claimed responsibility on behalf of his group for scores of Taliban attacks, proclaimed his escape on Twitter and then in an audio message sent to Pakistani media earlier this month.

The Pakistani military, which had kept Ehsan in detention for three years, has declined to comment but, asked by reporters about the report, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, said: "That is correct, that is correct."

Shah, a retired brigadier general, added that "you will hear good news" in response to questions about whether there had been progress in hunting down Ehsan.

Read More