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Milley: Soldier readiness starts at home, on top-quality Army installations

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (May 24, 2016) -- WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- A good foundation for Soldier and Army readiness, said the Army's chief of staff, is home base -- where Soldiers live, where their kids go to school, and where their spouses shop for groceries.

Thirteen Army installations were cited, May 24, for providing to Soldiers just that type of home base: one where they can leave home to conduct the nation's business, without being distracted by concerns for the well-being of the families they left behind.

During the 2016 Army Communities of Excellence Awards at the Pentagon, Gen. Mark A. Milley explained how installation excellence directly supports Soldier and Army readiness.

About 2.7 million Soldiers, he said, have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 15 years. And for each one of those Soldiers, he said, "their first concern, actually, was not the Taliban or al Qaeda ... their first concern was always, in every case, their family."

The general said that today, some 60 percent of the force is married, and has, on average, between one and two children. Those Solders, he said, could not have performed their duties abroad if they were distracted with concerns for the well-being of their families back home.

"A Soldier who is deployed and who thinks his family doesn't have adequate housing, has mold in the showers, the roof is leaking, the heat or air conditioning doesn't work, who doesn't have adequate medical care for his family or children ... or a community that doesn't feel safe, or doesn't have adequate police protection ... is not going to focus on their job in training, and certainly not going to focus on their job in wartime."

It's the role of installation commanders, Milley said, to ensure that there are adequate medical facilities, schools in place that are well-equipped, well-stocked commissaries and post exchanges, family support programs, recreational centers, youth centers, child care facilities and fitness centers, for instance.

"The list goes on and on," he said. "These are huge responsibilities for these communities. It's incumbent upon all of us as part of the institution ... to really take care of that Soldier and importantly, their family. By doing so, we are contributing to the readiness of the force."

Readiness, Milley said, is today the Army's No. 1 priority.

"Those 2.7 million could not have performed their task in combat without knowing there was a rear detachment, without knowing there was a garrison commander, or hospital commander, or a school district their child was going to," he said.

Well-run installations, Milley said, provide for families. And that, he said, provides Soldiers with the confidence to do their combat mission. "It's really a direct and causal contributor to the readiness of our force."

For 2016, the Army recognized the following installations for providing Soldier families with the support needed so that Soldiers could confidently deploy in support of the nation:

--- Regular Army

-- Gold: U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Campbell, Kentucky

-- Silver: U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Rucker, Alabama

-- Bronze: U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Wainwright, Alaska

-- Bronze: U.S. Army Garrison, Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia

--- Army National Guard

-- Overall Winner: Wisconsin National Guard

-- 1st Place: Camp Rapid, South Dakota, South Dakota National Guard

-- 2nd Place: North Carolina National Guard

-- 3rd Place: Louisiana National Guard

--- Army Reserve

-- Overall Winner: 81st Regional Support Command, Fort Jackson, South Carolina

-- Runner-up: 1st Mission Support Command, Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico

--- Most Improved

-- U.S. Army Garrison, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington

-- U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Drum, New York

-- U.S. National Guard, Illinois