DAF leadership discusses strengthening partnerships with military support groups

Department of the Air Force senior leadership hosted a roundtable with leaders from some of the country’s most prominent military and veteran support organizations Aug. 9 in the Pentagon.

The forum enabled DAF leadership to update the groups on top priorities and challenges and discuss how to partner effectively in support of Airmen, Guardians and family members.

Some of the many issues discussed included the challenging recruiting environment, the importance of providing quality education opportunities, housing and childcare challenges faced by military families, challenges experienced by LGBTQ service members and dependents, ensuring Airmen and Guardians are aware of healthcare access post-Dobbs, and partnering to support military members at remote locations.

The military and veteran support organizations that participated in the discussion included Air and Space Forces Association, Fisher House, Military Child Education Coalition, Modern Military Association of America, National Military Family Association, Operation Liberty, Student Veterans of America, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, United Service Organizations, and Wounded Warrior Project.

“These groups are on the frontlines doing so much to support both the Department of Defense and our military families,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones. “They bring so many programs to the table that help our military families. They also serve as sensors in that they are often the first to see a challenge emerging based on what they are hearing from their members or in their communities.”

The roundtable started with a discussion on key personnel issues which transitioned to Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, Air Force Recruiting Service commander, dialing in from Texas to discuss the challenges in the recruiting environment. Thomas asked the groups for their support in helping people to understand the value of military service.

During the executive session, the groups had a discussion with the secretary of the Air Force, under secretary of the Air Force, the chief of space operations, the chief master sergeant of the Air Force, and key leaders from both the Air Force and Space Force.

The groups emphasized they all stand ready to support the DAF in communities across the country and world and indicated that one of their biggest challenges is a lack of understanding among installation leaders and within the military community on services that they offer. They indicated they sometimes have access challenges at installations which hampers their ability to help service members and their families.

“When I talk to Airmen, I see directly how much the work that these groups do means both to them and their families,” said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass. “Whether it is the USO providing an innovative gaming center for Airmen or the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the Fisher House stepping in to support military families during their toughest hours, these groups just do so much. On any issue that our military families care about, these groups are there both supporting and advocating for them.”

The session ended with DAF leadership thanking the groups for all that they do and pledging to continue the dialogue with the organizations’ leaders on issues of concern both to the department and the veteran and military support organizations.

“Our military and veterans service organizations provide valuable support to our people. Leaders at all levels need to know what these important organizations offer and to work to form effective partnerships with them,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “It means too much to our military families for us to not take full advantage of what these organizations offer.”

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