Families Want Voice in Navigating Military Journey, DOD Official Says

Military families are no longer content to just come along for the ride — they want a loud voice in how to navigate the military journey, Patricia “Patty” M. Barron, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy said yesterday.

The change in the needs of military families is readily understood at the highest levels of military leadership, Barron said at a family forum of the Association of the United States Army.

“Supporting community-based organizations has helped me understand that military family readiness truly is a system of support,” she said. “We need everyone working together in all areas and at all levels to help our military families achieve their best military life. When our service members and their families thrive, our nation thrives, too.”

The key words that make up the family readiness systems are network, resilience, morale, quality of life and health — that is, social, financial, physical and career health, she said. It also refers to the health of the individual, the family, the unit, the military, the community and the nation. And the system must be integrated — it employs agencies, program services, individuals and organizations supporting military families at all levels, Barron added.

“Leveraging technology is even more crucial now due to COVID-19 and the need for hybrid service delivery models. But one of the challenges is designing a system that simplifies the point of entry, which is why we use an integrative service delivery model for social services,” she noted.

“What I’m talking about is Military OneSource,” Barron said, describing the website as the military’s centralized entry point into the Defense Department’s wealth of military resources.

“Just think how you can multiply possible solutions to any problem,” she suggested. “If we all learn to use Military OneSource to gather information and provide a warm handoff when needed, we can really amplify our support. Our goal is to augment the great work from the boots-on-the-ground experts, installations, military and family support centers, [and] service providers … because they’re all crucial to getting families the information support that they are looking for. No one entity can do it alone.”

DOD recognizes that, as challenges emerge, its people and systems mobilize to meet the needs of the military and families and maintain readiness. In all its forms — unit, family and operationally — readiness is critical, Barron said. “And we must learn to remove barriers that make us less agile, as well as develop new strategies to communicate to the very families that we want to support.”

Military family readiness is a system of support. DOD must work together with families to strengthen that system, particularly in light of COVID-19, she said. Barron added that the military community deserves support in all areas to improve quality of life for service members and families, enhance operational readiness, and promote national security.

“We strive to improve the quality of life for our military families,” Barron said. [We] want to make it easier for the generations that come after us. So, let’s work together. We must be innovative in our thinking and not bogged down by bureaucracy. And, most importantly, we must trust our families by listening to them and providing opportunities to make their voices heard.”