Soldiers. Civilians. Families. For nearly nine years, these three pillars of the Army community have made history during their support of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the resulting wear and tear is evident — even on those not serving on the front lines.
Indeed, “The Army will not break because of its Soldiers, but the wear and tear on families is almost unbearable,” said Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Installation Management Command.
Lynch speaks from experience; his family has faced their own separation of war. The general, who served as commander of the Multi-National Division-Center in Iraq, and his wife of almost three decades, Sarah, have been apart for four of the last seven years.
During a recent visit to garrisons in Europe, the IMCOM commander noted that the couple’s relationship has stood the test of time. “But while being apart is a strain in our relationship, can you … imagine the strain … in a family that’s newly married with newborn children?” he asked.
Accordingly, Lynch unveiled the Installation Management Campaign Plan last month. He called the IMCP a “road map for supporting the warrior now and in the future,” along with civilians and Army families.
The plan is also just a beginning. The general said the installation management community’s challenge now is to determine, “How can we do a better job of taking care of Soldiers and families? That’s why we exist; that’s the essence of our being.”
He called the plan an overall strategy for the installation management community.
His intent? To execute the IMCP along six lines of effort: Soldier, family and civilian readiness; Soldier, family and civilian well-being; leader and workforce development; installation readiness; safety, and energy efficiency and security.
As part of the campaign plan roll-out conference, Lynch invited Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. to share his assessment of where the service stands, and his thoughts on how the installation management community will continue to provide a vital role, not only in supporting the Army family, but in operating installations more efficiently and effectively.
As part of a one-hour presentation, Casey touched on his 2010 objectives, including this trio: continue efforts to restore balance; refine the Army of the 21st century, and sustain Soldiers, families and civilians.
The Army’s top officer said the service has made significant progress in rebalancing itself from the demands and stresses of more than eight and half years of combat — and is moving aggressively to further support the Soldiers and families of the all-volunteer force in the expected decade of conflict ahead.
Casey, now in his third year as chief of staff, believes the most important element for putting the Army back in balance is increasing dwell time. As he told a Senate panel in February and the approximately 1,000 people in the San Antonio audience: “What we continue to see … is the cumulative effects of these deployments.”
Studies show, he noted, that two to three years of dwell time is needed to recover from one year of serving downrange.
Therefore, the Army has increased dwell time from 12 to 18 months, and plans by the end of 2011 for all Soldiers to have two years at home following a year of deployment.
Casey candidly told conference participants that in 2007 the Army was out of balance and could not meet the demands placed on it. To rebalance the force by 2011, the Army embarked on a plan based on four imperatives: sustain Soldiers for success in current conflicts; prepare for future challenges; reset the force and transition to the Army of the future.
But while there has been obvious progress, the general stressed that outcomes of more than eight years of conflict “will be with us for some time to come.”
Looking ahead, Casey said the Army is placing special emphasis on two specific initiatives designed to further strengthen the resilience of Soldiers and families — the Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Program and the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program.
Following up on Casey’s speech, Lynch told those in audience that as “unforeseen challenges arise we must ask ourselves three fundamental questions: Are we doing the right things? Are we doing things rights? What are we missing?”
As Lynch stated in the campaign plan, “Effective leaders and responsible leaders at all levels must ask these three questions so that we can better focus our resources.”