Housing, Child Care, Good Schools Help Military Readiness, Advocates Contend During Defense Summit

Housing, Child Care, Good Schools Help Military Readiness, Advocates Contend During Defense Summit
A family child care provider, interacts with military children at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., in February 2023. (Photo by Joseph Coslett Jr./Air Force)

This article by Linda F. Hersey originally appeared on Stripes.com. Stars and Stripes serves the U.S. military community by providing editorially independent news and information around the world.


ARLINGTON, Va. — Access to affordable housing, reliable child care and top public schools in communities near bases where military families reside contribute to military readiness and retention, said Sharene Brown, the wife of Air Force Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


She emphasized Tuesday during a panel discussion at the American Defense Communities’ national summit that community-based resources have value for service members.


“I have seen military members who’ve had to step away [from their duties] because of child care issues that were significant,” said Brown, who leads Five & Thrive, a grassroots initiative to connect military families with community resources. “Our military is looking at this in a different way than it has in the past to give both parents an opportunity for family time off.”


Brown’s talk before representatives from civic, private and government organizations during the second day of the three-day summit focused on five “everyday” concerns that she said affects military personnel at all levels — housing, child care, education, health care and spouse employment.


[LEARN MORE: Five & Thrive]


Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s subpanel on quality of life, delivered the same message at a second panel discussion Tuesday that also focused on these everyday issues for service members.


“Communities can make all the difference for our service members,” Bacon said.


He also said it is important for military agencies to be candid in spending requests with lawmakers about quality-of-life needs on bases, such as improving military housing for families and dormitories for troops so there is less pressure to go off base for resources.


“If you have an all-volunteer force, you need to emphasize quality of life,” Bacon said. “We should know exactly what we are under-funding and make those decisions together.”


At Five & Thrive, Brown said her group also is looking at ways to better understand the challenges and concerns of military families across the U.S. who are living on or near the nation’s 500 military bases.


[RELATED: Army Creates Office to Better Support Families With Special Needs]


Five & Thrive recently partnered with Carestarter, which connects caregivers with online resources, and its subsidiary, Feedback, which focuses on data analytics, for an unfiltered look at real-time challenges military families talk about online in social media comments, messages and posts.


Carestarter had participated in a 2021 project at Travis Air Force Base in California that developed “CareMaps” for families with disabled children that were designed based on age, location and diagnosis. The interactive maps helped families identify and locate helpful resources.


Carestarter largely works in the health care arena for public and private agencies, said Dean Browell, chief behavioral officer for the Virginia-based company.


Feedback synthesizes publicly available social media from established online communities, such as the subgroups on Reddit focused on military and veterans’ issues.


The company mines social media data and employs anthropologists to interpret the findings.


“We look at digital spaces and how people are really talking. It helps decision-makers to have good data,” he said.


Brown indicated the work that both companies do to understand quality-of-life issues could have applications across the military.


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