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No Changes to Military Retirement Anytime Soon, Officials Say

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2011 – The military retirement isn’t going to change any time soon, Defense Department officials said.

“There’s no immediate plan to affect retirement,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told service members at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, July 31.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said any changes to military retirement should be studied carefully and should be “grandfathered” so the military doesn’t break faith with those in the service.

Pentagon officials are reviewing all areas of the defense budget, and the goal of the review is to “inform the decisions and strategies that we have to make,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Aug. 4.

“So that’s going to be key to what decisions we make and what areas we look to for savings,” the secretary added.

In support of the department’s efficiency initiatives, a small group of Defense Business Board members was tasked to develop alternative plans to the current military retirement system. The group briefed its findings and draft recommendations to the full board during their July 21 quarterly meeting. The full board approved the recommendations, and the group will issue a final report by the end of this month.

The Defense Business Board provides DOD’s senior leaders independent advice and recommendations “on effective strategies for the implementation of best business practices on matters of interest to the Department of Defense,” according to Pentagon officials.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon spokeswoman said, officials are reviewing the board’s recommendations.

“Any recommendation to change the military retirement system must be approached with thoughtful analysis, to include considerations of impacts to recruiting and retention,” Eileen Lainez said. “While the military retirement system, as with all other compensation, is a fair subject of review for effectiveness and efficiency, no changes to the current retirement system have been approved, and no changes will be made without careful consideration for both the current force and the future force.”

Family Matters Blog: Spouses Can Honor Employers With Award

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2011 – Civilian spouses of Reserve and National Guard members often must rely on the flexibility and support of their employers, particularly during deployments.

While most employers will grant a time-off request and, in some cases, a shift change for their spouse employees, others go above and beyond in their support. They may arrange for the family’s lawn care during a deployment, send care packages overseas, or create telework agreements so parents can be at home more with their kids.

In the past, a thank-you note or email would have to suffice. But now, a Defense Department program is offering spouses a more visible way to express their gratitude.

The Spouse Patriot Award, established by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve agency, honors extraordinarily supportive employers of reserve spouses. Initially open only to employers of National Guard and Reserve members, the Patriot Award program expanded earlier this year to include their spouses.

“We had so many spouses asking us to expand the program, so we did last year,” said Beth Sherman, ESGR spokeswoman. “Little attention was being paid to the employers of their spouses, who also were doing their part.”

The program is open to all National Guard and Reserve spouses. To submit a nomination, visit the ESGR website and fill out the spouse nomination form.

For more on this program and employers’ contributions, read my American Forces Press Service article, “Patriot Award Honors Outstanding Spouse Employers.”
 

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Biden Praises Kaneohe Bay Marines, Families

biden praises Marines, Families

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2011 – Vice President Joe Biden visited Marine Corps Base Hawaii late yesterday to thank members of the 3rd Marine Regiment, some preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, and to pledge continued support for them and their families.

Stopping at Kaneohe Bay after wrapping up his trip to China, Mongolia and Japan, Biden praised the “whole hangar-ful of heroes” that have sacrificed heavily during the past decade of conflict.

“You sacrifice an incredible amount for your country,” the vice president told the Marines, many of whom have deployed as many as five times into combat. “Never before has our nation asked as much of an all-volunteer force as we have asked of you.”

Biden noted that only 1 percent of Americans volunteer to serve their country in uniform. “That 1 percent is made up of the most extraordinary men and women this country has ever known, and you are among them,” he told the assembly. “You are simply the very best America has, and I want to thank you.”

Biden noted the many heroes within the 3rd Marines. Among them is former Cpl. Dakota Myer, who next month will become the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, for actions in Afghanistan. And, Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Epps donated bone marrow in May to save the life of an 8-year-old girl. That spurred 369 more sailors and spouses to follow suit and sign up for a bone marrow registry.

Watching U.S. service members in action, Biden said he’s been amazed at how little they ask in return. “You never ask for a damned thing,” he said. “But we owe you a lot.”

The United States has a sacred obligation to provide its service members with everything necessary to accomplish their missions when they’re deployed into harm’s way, Biden said, and also “to guarantee you everything we can when you return to make you and your families whole.”

It’s an obligation, Biden said, that will extend long after the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan end as the United States provides continued support for its veterans, particularly the wounded, their families and families of the fallen.

Biden noted efforts under way to provide that support. Among them, he said, are better Veterans Affairs Department funding, improved care for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and other “signature wounds of the 9/11 generation,” as well as new post-9/11 G.I Bill benefits and new caregiver benefits.

As he thanked the Marines for their service, Biden paid a special tribute to service members’ family members.

“Without them, you would not be able to do what you are doing,” he told the assembled service members.

Biden shared his own family’s emotional struggles as they dealt with his son’s deployment to Iraq, and said many Americans have “no idea what your families are going through,” particularly during multiple deployments.

“No generation of families had had to endure this repeatedly,” he said. “America owes them.”
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Family Matters Blog: My Husband’s Reintegration

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2011 - In this post, Sheri Hall answers questions about how she supported her family while her husband, Army Maj. Jeff Hall, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after his second tour in Iraq, and shares how she encouraged him to seek help through the Deployment Health Clinical Center’s specialized care program. The center is part of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and offers care for those experiencing PTSD and reintegration concerns.

Q. What was your reaction when your husband returned home?

A. I noticed he had a deep, dark, hollow look in his eyes. I asked him if he needed to talk to someone. I let him know that I was supportive but he wasn’t receptive at the time. I think he felt he needed to be the “macho” soldier.

Q. What was the impact of his post-combat stress on you?

A. I was never fearful for Jeff’s life while he was in combat, since I knew that he trained himself well. When Jeff returned and was having suicidal thoughts, I couldn’t sleep. I was so worried I would sit in bed and watch him. I feared he would just leave. I lost 15 pounds in two weeks. When I’d take the kids to school, I would race home to make sure Jeff was where I last saw him.

Q. How did you try to communicate with your husband during this time?

A. I told him that while I didn’t know the effects of combat, I knew that something was wrong. It was hard because he kind of pushed me and the girls away. Finally, I sat down with him and said, “If you kill yourself, how do I explain it to your daughters, your mother and father, and my family?” It was like a light bulb went on, and that’s when we looked into the DHCC program.

Q. What would you tell military parents about how to communicate with their children?

A. Encourage children to be vocal; tell us what’s bothering you. I put on a big front when Jeff was experiencing PTSD and never told the girls about my sleepless nights. If I had, we could have communicated better.

Q. What advice would you give a military spouse experiencing similar challenges?

A. I tell military wives to keep that line of communication as open as possible. Then, if something is wrong, a spouse will immediately know. I wish I had stood firmer with Jeff and said, “No, you’re going to get help” when he resisted. Don’t just let things be.

Hall recommends people dealing with reintegration check out the free resources offered through the Real Warriors Campaign and the Defense Centers of Excellence, such as the Outreach Center’s live chat. The feature instantly connects users with trained health resource consultants who can help with psychological health concerns.

Click here to view the Real Warriors and Families video profile featuring the Hall family.

(This post originally appeared on the Defense Centers of Excellence blog.)

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VA Outlines October Changes in Post-9/11 GI Bill

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2011 – The third round of 2011 changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill will take effect Oct. 1, a Department of Veterans Affairs official said today.

October’s changes allow eligible students to pay for more education and training programs with the GI Bill, Keith Wilson, director of VA’s education service, told reporters today during a telephone conference.

Programs not leading to college degrees, including programs offered at schools that don’t grant degrees, will now be eligible for GI Bill funding, Wilson said. Flight programs, correspondence training, on-the-job and apprenticeship training also are covered by the GI Bill, he added.

“That’s a significant expansion,” Wilson said.

Beginning in October, the GI Bill will offer a housing allowance to students not on active duty who are enrolled solely in distance learning, and will allow students on active duty to receive a stipend for books and supplies.

Wilson said another change in the housing allowance means students enrolled more than half time but less than full time will receive a pro-rated housing allowance, rather than the full allowance they used to get.

“Now the housing allowance is tied to the training time,” he said. “So if an individual wants a full housing allowance, they need to be a full-time student.”

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, which President Barack Obama signed into law Jan. 4 of this year, set forth three sets of GI Bill changes. Some of the act’s provisions already took effect in March and August.

The act establishes a cap of $17,500 in annual tuition for public and foreign schools, and allows payment of all in-state public school tuition and fees, Wilson said.

The act also did away with break pay or interval pay as of Aug. 1, he noted. This was a provision formerly allowing GI Bill benefits to continue for students on breaks of less than 30 days between periods of enrollment. Now, benefits can be paid only during periods of enrollment, though the 36 months of total eligibility remain unchanged.

The weeks during which students received benefits when not enrolled in school meant they were “burning entitlement,” which now will be preserved, Wilson noted, but he added students will have to plan carefully for periods between classes, such as traditional winter breaks.

To date, more than 537,000 students have received more than $11.5 billion in GI Bill benefits. Wilson said VA staffers already have received more than 130,000 applications for fall 2011 enrollment and have processed more than 110,000 of them.

Patriot Award Honors Outstanding Spouse Employers

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2011 – When Army 1st Lt. Sean Blacker of the Idaho National Guard was tapped to attend officer basic training in Oklahoma, his wife, Michelle, felt prepared for the five-month separation. But then she learned her husband would follow up that training with a year-long deployment in Iraq.

for blog 1st lt blackerShe struggled to come to terms with the back-to-back obligations that would equate to 18 months apart. “I just knew I didn’t want to be away from him that long,” she said.

Blacker approached her supervisor at the Idaho National Laboratory and asked if she could telecommute for five months so she could accompany her husband to officer training. Without hesitation, her supervisor, Amy Lientz, said yes.

“From the get-go, she was 100 percent supportive,” said Blacker, who works in the lab’s office of communications in governmental affairs. “Just to spend that time with him before his deployment; I don’t think she realizes how much it’s meant to us.”

While she didn’t have the words to express her gratitude at the time, Blacker said she was grateful to find out about a program that could: the Spouse Patriot Award.

The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Defense Department agency, established the award program to recognize employers who go above and beyond to support reserve members and their families. The program initially was open only to service members, but ESGR expanded the criteria in February to encompass spouses’ employers. Since the program was expanded, more than 500 spouses have nominated their employers for an award, said Beth Sherman, ESGR spokeswoman.

“We had so many spouses asking us to expand the program so we did last year,” she said. “Little attention was being paid to the employers of their spouses, who also were doing their part.”

The employer contribution is significant, Sherman noted, since it eases the burden for spouses who often take on additional responsibilities as they manage households and care for children while a loved one is deployed or at training.

Sherman recalled hearing of a supervisor who shifted a spouse’s entire nursing schedule while her husband was deployed so she could have more time at home with their three children. Other employers grant leave liberally, pitch in with lawn care or send care packages, she explained.

Blacker said her employer’s outstanding support continued long after her husband deployed to Iraq. When she had a baby, her supervisor established a part-time schedule so she could have more time at home while her husband was away.

This support has been beneficial not just for her, but for her husband’s peace of mind, Blacker said. “He feels like I’m taken care of on a working standpoint while he’s gone,” she said. “He can focus on the mission, and breathe.”

In turn, the award serves as acknowledgement to employers who aren’t obligated to help, but choose to do so anyway, Sherman said.

“The employer gets far more out of it than the spouse could imagine,” she said.

Blacker said she surprised her supervisor with the award at a staff meeting attended by her local military affairs committee president and a rear detachment commander, who presented her supervisor with a certificate of appreciation and patriotic lapel pin.

“She was totally shocked and very, very grateful,” she said.

All spouses of Guard and Reserve members are eligible to nominate their employers. To submit a nomination, visit the ESGR website and fill out the spouse nomination form.

Tuskegee Airmen Observe 70-Year Legacy

By Air Force Master Sgt. Tracy DeMarco
Air Force District of Washington

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2011 – More than 650 people gathered Aug. 3-7 for the 40th annual Tuskegee Airmen convention, which featured events throughout the national capital region.

This year’s theme, “70 Years of Aviation Excellence: Then, Now, the Future,” celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen legacy.

Sixty-seven original Tuskegee Airmen registered for the convention; among them was retired Col. Charles E. McGee.

“Because we were segregated, we were together over a long time, so some lifelong friendships have come out of that experience,” McGee said. “Gathering at conventions is our way of keeping in touch, even though our numbers are dropping off. Conventions are a chance for us to share with others in the different communities.”

The week kicked off Aug. 3 with the final flight of an Army 1944 PT-13 Stearman biplane, as it flew along the Potomac River. The aircraft originally was used to train Tuskegee pilots before retiring from military service as a crop duster.

Recognized as a vital piece of aviation and African-American history, the biplane — named the “Spirit of Tuskegee” — will be viewed by future generations at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

The Tuskegee Airmen also honored their brethren who lost their lives in service to their country with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Air Force Memorial, and they received a sneak peak of the national memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. that is set to open to the public later this month on the National Mall.

Aug. 4 was set aside to inspire the aviators of tomorrow. About 400 teenagers from across the nation began their day at Joint Base Andrews, Md. They toured static aircraft displays, watched operational demonstrations and tried on military gear. The teens then traveled to the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at the National Harbor where they enjoyed a lunch with influential aviation and military leaders, including the Tuskegee Airmen.

“It’s going great,” said Trent Dudley, the president of the Tuskegee Airmen’s East Coast chapter and event coordinator. “Any time you can link the original airmen with the youth is wonderful.”

McGee noted the importance of continuing the Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy.

“The way I put it when I talk to 7th graders or 8th graders is they need to realize that 25 years from now what’s going on in the country is going to be what they’re doing,” he said. “So we hope that they’re still focused to preserve our freedoms and still seek equal opportunity and equal access for all.”

The Aug. 4 focus turned to the military members making sacrifices in today’s wars. An executive and senior-leader panel fielded questions from an almost all-military audience. Topics included possible changes to the military retirement system, diversity in the military and mentoring.

“Diversity is a military necessity,” said Jarris Taylor Jr., deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for strategic diversity integration. “Diversity is a leadership and managerial philosophy, not military equal opportunity. It’s about organizational change.”

“The more diverse that we are, the better,” said retired Lt. Col. James C. Warren, an original Tuskegee Airman. “If we quit using hyphenations in America, we’ll get along much better. I’m not an African-American — I’m an American citizen.”

Warren has attended 39 of the 40 Tuskegee Airmen conventions. He missed one because he was still on active duty serving in the Vietnam War.

Halfway through the day Aug. 5, a large crowd of hotel staff and guests lined the hallway outside the ballroom used for the convention. When the Tuskegee Airmen and current military service members broke for lunch, they were greeted with an explosion of clapping and cheering.

“It’s such an honor for us to be able to host the Tuskegee Airmen. They are American icons,” said Aimie Gorrell, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center director of public relations. “We were thrilled that about 400 of our staff were able to take time away from their work today to come out and do what we call a ’standing ovation.’ We do a standing ovation for our very most VIP guests and customers, and certainly the Tuskegee Airmen are our true VIPs today.”

The convention served as a reminder of just how diverse American society has become in present day, McGee said.

“It’s been rewarding to be a part of the experience,” McGee said, “and see that change has taken place. I believe it’s for the good. Our country is more diverse now than it was then, so we need to stay on that road, … because talent doesn’t come with happenstance of birth.”

McKinley: America Must Preserve Tuskegee Airmen’s Legacy

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2011 – As the accomplishments of the World War II-era Tuskegee Airmen fade into U.S. history, a grateful nation must work to keep their legacy alive, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said at the 40th annual Tuskegee Airmen convention.

“The reality of human behavior is that the further in time we get from an event in history, the further it slips from our memory,” Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley said Aug. 5 at the gathering of the group named for the nation’s first African-American fighter pilots at National Harbor, Md. “I don’t want to see this happen to the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.”

The military made a tangible step in preserving the unit’s heritage when in 2007 the 187th Fighter Wing of the Alabama Air National Guard deactivated its 160th Fighter Squadron and reactivated it as the 100th Fighter Squadron in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, said McKinley, who was director of the Air National Guard at the time. But, there is more the military and the nation can do to preserve and replicate their legacy, he said.

McKinley spoke of the airmen’s commitment to service, noting that it came during a time of Jim Crow segregation laws when “this country was telling African-Americans they couldn’t stay in the same hotels as white people, they couldn’t attend the same schools as white people, and in some cases, they couldn’t even enter a building through the same door as white people.

“Why then would the Tuskegee Airmen in the 1940s choose to fight for our country?” the general asked. “I’ll bet that if you asked the original Tuskegee Airmen … a common answer would be commitment to service and preserving our nation for the next generation to make it better.”

All service members can carry on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen by striving for excellence, McKinley said. He noted the accomplishments of the airmen, which include more than 16,000 combat sorties with 115 German aircraft destroyed in the air and another 150 on the ground, and 950 German vehicles destroyed. Their commendations include three Distinguished Unit Citations, about 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, at least one Silver Star, 14 Bronze Stars, 748 Air Medals and eight Purple Hearts.

“If you want an example of excellence, there it is,” McKinley said to applause.

The military can do more to carry on the Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy, he said, by conducting outreach to make more young people eligible for recruitment. Pentagon statistics show that three out of four Americans ages 17 through 24, and more often minorities, cannot be recruited due to inadequate education, health problems or criminal history, he said.

The services also must continue with efforts to promote diversity as a core value, making its leadership as diverse as America, and hold senior officers accountable for progress, McKinley said.

Also, the general said, the nation needs to prime its young people to maintain U.S. superiority in science and technology, noting increased competition from China, Russia, Canada and Brazil in aviation and aerospace.

“We have to ask ourselves, who is going to design America’s unmanned aerial vehicle technology of the future?” he said. “Who will build the next stealth bomber? Who will go to Mars?”

With fewer and fewer Americans having a family member who served in the military, McKinley said, service members and veterans must serve as the example. And, for those who cannot serve in the military, he encouraged other forms of service, such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps.

“Those of us who have influence over the younger generation of Americans can encourage them to continue the tradition of American aviation and to follow the Tuskegee Airmen’s example of service to our nation above self,” he said. “For 70 years, the Tuskegee Airmen have rightfully been hailed as America’s heroes. Through the actions we take starting today, we can ensure that their legacy lives — then, now and in the future.”

Demand Will Increase for Special Ops Forces, Olson Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2011 – Special operations forces will become more important in the future, said Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, who turned over the reins of U.S. Special Operations Command today.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven succeeded Olson, who will retire from the Navy later this month.

Olson was the first Navy SEAL to become a four-star admiral, and he has been in charge of the command since July 2009. While special operations forces come from all services, they have a similar mindset, he said.

“It was with purpose and focus, agility and talent, tenacity and courage, celebration and mourning that our forces moved forward,” he said during the transfer of command ceremony in Tampa, Fla. “Special operations forces by nature do not own mass or terrain. What they have is agility and speed, innovation and wisdom. They value knowledge over doctrine, experience over theory.”

Special operations forces form a community of “self-starters, deep thinkers, imagineers, problem solvers, aggressive leaders and teammates to whom they can and often do trust with their lives,” Olson said.

Special operations forces are a small part of the overall military, but they have become essential in two major lines of operation in Afghanistan – counterterrorism and the enduring local security force activities. Special operators also are key in training Afghan commandos and special forces.

“Their proven abilities to arrive unexpectedly, to kill those who plan to do us harm, to take precise action when required, to inspire their counterparts, all combine to make them a force in high demand,” Olson said. “To be closely associated with such forces is a true privilege. To serve as their commander is the highest of honors.”

The admiral said he has worked mostly with senior officers and senior noncommissioned officers during his time at the command, but he has tried to get out and speak with those on the ground at combat outposts and forward locations when possible. Roughly 85 percent of special operations deployments have been to Iraq and Afghanistan. “I’m proud to note that our ranks are solid, [and] the future is bright,” he said.

Special operations forces have become the solution of choice for many of America’s military challenges, Olson said.

“They punch above their weight, and they absorb blows with abnormal toughness and stamina,” he said. “Our nation deserves and expects to have such a force that operates without much drama or fanfare, and whose greatest heroes are among the least acknowledged. This force is it. The yin and the yang – hunting enemies and bringing value to the people and places we go, are in close harmony.”

This is a force that America can and should be intensely proud of, and it is a force that America needs to face the threats of the future, the admiral said.

“Osama bin Laden is dead, but al-Qaida version 2.0 is brewing,” he added. “Conflicts over natural resources, borders, ideologies and theologies will continue. Cyber war looms. The lines between terrorism and crime will become less distinct. Global friction will intensify, and special operations forces will be necessary to turn down the heat.”

Olson said he is concerned about some aspects of the force, including the “conventionalization” of special operations forces and a potential decrease in support from the services because of budget pressures. He has expressed concern about the effects of persistent warfare on personnel and their families

Family Matters Blog: Compact Eases School Transitions

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2011 – Nearly a year ago, I made the move from Virginia to Maryland and enrolled my children in their new school.

As in past moves, I immediately ran up against some school-transition roadblocks. My son wanted to join the after-school science club, but had missed the sign-up dates by a long shot. And since she wasn’t there for testing, my daughter had to wait months before she could be considered for an honors program.

These issues were an inconvenience, but since we don’t move that often, I figured they wouldn’t have a lasting impact.

It’s a different story for our military children who move multiple times over the course of their parent’s military career. One lost semester of an honors program due to missed testing dates may not add up to much, but how about six or eight missed semesters?

Fortunately, an interstate compact is helping to address these transition-related concerns for military parents. The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children affects everything from school enrollment and eligibility to course placement and graduation. Since its inception in 2006, 39 states have adopted the compact, ensuring inclusion of nearly 90 percent of military children and teens.

The compact addresses military parents’ common concerns such as records transfer, which often takes weeks or months to occur. This delay in records transfer can cause a delay in course and program placement. Under the compact, however, schools must transfer records within 10 days.

The compact also requires the gaining school to presume students are qualified for an honors program if they were in a similar program in another school and there’s space in the gaining program. Students still can be tested, but won’t lose valuable program time in the meantime.

To ensure students have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, the compact requires schools to waive the deadlines or, if those dates are steadfast, to find an alternate way for the student to apply, such as taped auditions.

The compact includes many other provisions for military students, including those from National Guard and Reserve families. Parents and school officials should educate themselves about the compact, particularly as the new school year draws near, advised Ed Kringer, director of state liaison and educational opportunity for the Pentagon’s office of military community and family policy. And if they hit any roadblocks, he added, parents and guardians should talk to their local school liaison officer.

The big-picture goal of the compact, he said, is to alleviate parents’ education concerns and to keep families together. He would like to avoid situations in which the families choose to stay in one place while the service member moves to another to avoid school transition issues.

“That’s not what we want. … We don’t want to keep families apart,” he said. “We surely don’t want them apart because they’re worried about their children being put behind because they have to transfer schools.”

For more on the compact, read my American Forces Press Service article, “Interstate Compact Eases School Transitions” or visit the Department of Defense Education Activity’s website