Chief of staff kicks off Caring for People Forum

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
As Airmen from throughout the Air Force gathered here April 20 through 22 for the 2010 Caring for People Forum, the chief of staff of the Air Force underscored the importance of their participation.

Approximately 250 active-duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen and civilians gathered for the second annual forum to address areas of concern for Airmen.

Topics to be addressed include deployments, schools, housing, health and wellness and spouse communication as well as the unique challenges for families with special needs, single Airmen and Guard and Reserve members.

"Make no mistake, your work is absolutely vital and it is essential to the success of our Air Force as a national security institution and as a diverse family, a very diverse family, in common cause," said Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff.

Participants are from a variety of backgrounds including family advocates, chaplains, housing specialists and medical service providers.

The Air Force's top uniformed officer said their collective skills and efforts "enhance the effectiveness of our support programs at all levels and across our great Air Force."

"Nearly two decades of persistent conflict -- and in particular, the last decade of sustained combat operations -- have placed extraordinary demands on military families," General Schwartz said.

He added that frequent deployments strain Airmen and their families and "challenge the overall resiliency of our force.

"The home front, perhaps, is disrupted a bit," the general said. "Formerly routine activities, such as getting children to school or soccer practice or piano recitals, shopping for groceries or other essentials or preparing meals, are performed by a single parent who already struggles with the strain of separation."

Trying to fill-in at home is only part of the strain.

"At an emotional level, anxiety about a loved one's safety is understandably a quiet concern," General Schwartz said.

"We must be ready to assist our waiting family members, and this is a foot stomp, to help them address the emotional toll that results from knowing that a deployed family member may be in harm's way," he added.

The chief of staff stressed that challenges don't end when Airmen return from a deployment.

"Our military families must together face other unique issues," General Schwartz said, "working to resume family life and support the deployed member's reintegration into the family routine.

"And because these effects are cumulative, we often must address not only the stresses that result from the most recent deployment, but perhaps those from previous ones as well," he said. "These service members, and especially our wounded warriors, deserve the absolute best care and support."

As the Year of the Air Force Family winds down in July, General Schwartz cautioned everyone to remain vigilant in caring for people.

"As the Year of the Air Force Family draws to a conclusion this summer, we must ensure that the vision that led to its genesis outlasts the official designation and that our hard-earned progress continues," General Schwartz said.

"No passé banner or expired label will ever permit us to abdicate our responsibility to care for our people," he said.

Several senior leaders were in attendance at the forum, including Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, the deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel, and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley will address the forum April 21.