ATLANTA (AFNS) --
The secretary of the Air Force emphasized the Air Force's firm commitment to its families during his speech at the 2009 Air Force Sergeant's Association Professional Airmen's Conference here August 19.
Secretary Michael B. Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz designated July 2009 to July 2010 as "Year of the Air Force Family."
In a July 17 memorandum, the leaders explained that the Air Force family is dynamic and diverse, made up of active duty, Reserve and Guard component members; officer and enlisted, civilians, spouses and children and that it also extends to parents, friends and community partners who support Airmen.
"Significant emphasis will be placed on the four important areas of concern for Air Force families: affordable and available family housing, safe schools that challenge and prepare children for the future, accessible and quality medical care for Air Force families, and quality childcare," Secretary Donley told the 1,200 personnel in attendance. For single Airmen, who make up 40 percent of the force, Secretary Donley pledged the Air Force would "concentrate on their unique requirements for dormitories and (morale, welfare and recreation) services that offer fulfilling off-duty activities."
In April 2009, Air Force senior leaders and family support professionals attended the "Caring for People Forum," which helped develop direction for the "Year of the Air Force Family." The group assessed current programs, identified Air Force family needs and made recommendations for improvement.
"Following the review, we took the findings to assess where to shift or add investments that will yield the greatest impact," Secretary Donley said.
The secretary explained that senior leaders quickly sought to enhance the lives of Airmen and their families with actions such as offering affordable family housing through privatization; strengthening educational initiatives for children by funding school liaisons; and continuing to improve care for wounded warriors.
In addition to these accomplishments, Secretary Donley lauded the success of Air Force Airmen and Family Readiness Centers in helping families address a wide range of concerns from employment for spouses to healthcare.
Each of these improvements and initiatives fosters a greater sense of community, adding to the quality of life for Airmen and increasing mission effectiveness -- both at home and while deployed, Secretary Donley said.
"But we cannot rest comfortably on these accomplishments. We need to assess gaps and look for improved ways to better the lives of our families," the secretary said.
Secretary Donley stressed that senior leaders in Washington cannot accomplish this task alone and asked that base level leadership get actively involved in identifying the needs of their Airmen and families.
"Airmen want a sense of community, and sound Air Force policy can help foster it. But it is leadership at the local level that probably does more to fulfill that need ... we shouldn't underestimate the impact of simply reaching out to our Fellow Airmen," Secretary Donley said.
To read Secretary Donley's full speech, click here