Touching Base--Volume 4 Issue 2

August 2011 — Volume 4 Issue 2

"We want all Americans to understand and appreciate what our troops and their families do for our country every day."
Jill Biden
The National Cable and Telecommunications Association's Annual Convention
June 17, 2011, Chicago, IL

U.S. Secretary of Education Highlights Academic Success as a National Security Issue

On March 23, as part of a two-day trip to California, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. He joined U.S. Department of Defense Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), as well as San Diego Unified School District Superintendent William Kowba and several military leaders, to showcase education as a national security issue. Mr. Kowba spoke about the importance of improving student performance in the classroom. Maj. Gen. James W. Comstock, U.S. Army (Ret.), Mission: Readiness and former reserve component advisor, U.S. Central Command; and Maj. Gen. Paul D. Monroe, U.S. Army (Ret.), former adjutant general of California, together with Amy Dawson Taggart, national director of Mission: Readiness, focused on the need for a greater investment in high-quality early learning opportunities. The officials toured a school age facility at Miramar and then held a press conference that focused on data showing that an estimated 75 percent of young adults do not qualify for military service and that poor school performance is one of the leading reasons why many young adults cannot enlist. Mission: Readiness is a nonprofit organization composed of more than 200 retired generals and admirals who support bipartisan efforts to modify the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and to enact new federal legislation that enables more children to succeed academically. As a testimony to the military's interest, others present were Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Anthony L. Jackson, Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations West; Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, deputy commanding general of Ist Marine Expeditionary Force; Maj. Gen. James W. Comstock, U.S. Army (Ret.), Mission: Readiness and former reserve component advisor, U.S. Central Command; and Maj. Gen. Paul D. Monroe, U.S. Army (Ret.), former adjutant general of California.

Michelle Obama Speaks at High School Graduation

First lady Michelle Obama told the graduating class of Virginia's Quantico Middle/High School that they should treasure the resilience they have developed as military kids. "You all have the maturity to understand that your parents are part of something far bigger than themselves, or you, or your family. You understand that their service keeps every single American safe," she told the graduates.

Michelle Obama spoke June 3, at Quantico Marine Corps Base, to the high school's 27 graduating seniors as well as nine seniors who were displaced by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of earlier this year. The first lady, who received a standing ovation, said the stress, upheaval and diversity of military life has made those families stronger and the graduates better prepared for their future. "Unlike some of your civilian peers, I don't think any of you are going to panic about having to do your own laundry or cook your own meals when it's time to leave home," she said. ... "So I have to tell you, I am in awe of you."

Each of the 36 graduates received their diplomas from Michelle Obama personally, along with a hug and a photograph. "It's just hard to describe how much it means to military families to have graduates recognized by the commander-in-chief's wife," said the school's valedictorian, Brannon Niblock, who will enroll in the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in the fall. Quantico is the last of three commencement addresses this year from the first lady. Along with childhood obesity, support for military families has been one of her top issues as first lady.

Joining Forces Initiative Launched

For the first time in this country, the needs of military children in schools are being highlighted from the very top. President Barack Obama's recently released directive "Strengthening Our Military Families" ( includes detailed plans for focusing on and improving educational outcomes for military students. On April 21, the U.S. Department of Education joined agencies across the government in participating in first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden's Joining Forces initiative, which seeks to mobilize all sectors of society to better support service members and their families. The week of June 3, President Obama, the first lady, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden launched the Joining Forces Initiative to mobilize all sectors of society—from citizens to businesses to communities—to give service members and their families the opportunities, resources and support they have earned to make the deployment of their loved ones a little easier. Michelle Obama stated, "This campaign is about all of us, all of us joining together, as Americans, to give back to the extraordinary military families who serve and sacrifice so much, every day, so that we can live in freedom and security." President Obama said, "Our nation endures because these men and women are willing to defend it, with their very lives. And as a nation, it is our solemn duty and our moral obligation to serve these patriots as well as they serve us." Joining Forces is partnering with top corporations and nonprofit groups to bolster health care, as well as employment and educational opportunities. To learn more go to

The Department has taken steps to better meet these needs by providing important guidance to states and districts and by working to better direct the flow of federal resources. Some of the steps taken include: Departmental support of military families is a priority and is supplemented by making discretionary grant programs that support the military a priority; continuation of the Specialized Training of Military Parents (STOMP) project, dedicated to serving military parents of children with special needs; and a Dear Colleague Letter from the secretary to all district superintendents and all chief state school officers indicating support for the work of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, which addresses some of the common education barriers for military students who are transferring between school systems. In only four years, 39 states have adopted the compact, and we are hopeful the remaining states will do so by the end of 2012. Among other provisions, the compact addresses the timely transfer of student records, increases the probability students will receive credit for courses taken in other states, and enhances eligibility for sports and other extracurricular programs. To learn more about the U.S. Department of Education's commitments and initiatives to support military families, please visit

Jill Biden Holds Military Summit

The Department of Education's fourth and final regional community college summit was held at San Diego City College, on April 15. The summit came on the heels of the Michelle Obama's and Jill Biden's Joining Forces kickoff tour (See story on Joining Forces Page 2). Joining Forces is an initiative intended to, among other things, raise public awareness about military families and veterans who live in communities throughout the country, and encourage all Americans to do their part to show their appreciation and support. Community colleges are uniquely suited to meet the Joining Forces challenge, and they set an example for all sectors of society to use their strengths and expertise to expand opportunities for our veterans, as community colleges have always been attuned to the needs of their communities. The San Diego summit focused on the ways community colleges are supporting and educating veterans and members of the military and their families. Summit participants heard from several veterans about how their military service prepared them for college, and about some of the challenges they encountered transitioning from the military into the classroom. Many community college leaders and students discussed how veterans have become leaders on their campuses, strengthening classroom discussions and advocating for other students and veterans. In San Diego as elsewhere in the nation, we have a special obligation to make sure our veterans and military families can move into promising careers and thrive after their years of service and sacrifice to our country. These summits were held across the country to follow up on the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges hosted by President Obama and Jill Biden at the White House last October. As Biden commented then, the White House Summit was only the beginning of our national outreach and other efforts to demonstrate how community colleges are critical to educating the best, most competitive workforce in the world.

Department Representative Moderates Panel on Military Children

On April 28, the Department of Education moderated a panel at the NASA Pre-Launch Education Summit—Supporting Military Families, in Orlando Fla. The panel discussed the challenges regarding a military child's education and the role the federal government has in finding solutions. The panel consisted of moderator, John Manahan, special assistant to the deputy secretary and a member of the performance management team in the Office of the Deputy Secretary; David Splitek, Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) board member since 2000 and chair of the MCEC Technology Initiatives; Maj. Eric Flake, chief, Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.; Sierra Flake, grade 6 military child; and Tre Fields grade 12 military youth. The key questions addressed were: What are the major educational issues facing military families? How has or can the communities around military facilities respond to these educational challenges? What is the Federal role in responding to these challenges? Some key outcomes determined: Migrating military children are either very behind or very ahead depending on the state they are coming from and the state they are going to; States that are part of the Interstate Compact (IC; see Joining Forces Initiative Launched, page 2) typically are easier for military families to work with, however, the difference in standards and inconsistent implementation of the IC still make it difficult; and there was broad agreement that having military children as a group from which reports should be made is important.

Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Commissioner Participates in Career Summit

RSA Commissioner Lynnae Ruttledge participated in the Health Care: Career Trends, Best Practices and Call-to-Action Summit on May 17 in Chicago, Ill. The summit was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago. Participants discussed increasing employment opportunities, breaking down employment barriers in clinical and nonclinical settings, building strategic alliances, exchanging information, and improving access to health-care careers for qualified people with disabilities, veterans and minorities. Approximately 100-200 business leaders, human resource managers, government representatives and health-care professional attended.

Department Exhibits at Joint Services Open House

The Department exhibited at the Joint Services Open House (JSOS) May 20-23, Suitland, Md. Staff provided available information to all the visitors and answered questions concerning grants, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the website for veterans and military families, JSOS, held at Andrews Air Force Base, featured the Thunderbirds, the Golden Knights, and other exciting aerial and ground attractions.

Department Representative Hosts Panel to Discuss Charter Schools on Military Installations

On June 20-23, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools held its 2011 National Charter Schools Conference in Atlanta, Ga. The Department of Education presented a panel moderated by John Bray of the National Charter School Resource Center, which is operated for the Department by American Institutes for Research. The session provided information about charter schools on military bases. Included were such topics as starting the schools, allocating spaces, facilities, transportation, security issues and federal support available for charter schools serving military families. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement. Their mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement for all students by fostering a strong charter sector. The alliance provides assistance to state charter school associations and resource centers, and develops and advocates for improved public policies. The panelists were Jean Silvernail, director, Military Child Education Division for U.S. Pacific Command; Jane Dye,principal of Belle Chasse Academy, a K-8 charter school located on Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base New Orleans; Michael Toriello, deputy base civil engineer at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz.; and Lloyd Matthews, senior program manager/analyst for charter schools, Impact Aid Program, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Deputy Secretary Speaks at Military Child Education Coalition Conference

The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) held its 2011 annual conference in Nashville, Tenn., June 21-23, featuring a panel discussion that included some of the highest ranking generals and admirals of the U.S. and British militaries and the U.S. Department of Education's Deputy Secretary Tony Miller. The Military Child Education Coalition's vision is to serve as a model of positive leadership and advocacy for ensuring inclusive, quality educational opportunities for all military children. The coalition's mission is to ensure inclusive, quality educational experiences for all military children affected by mobility, family separation, and transition. Other panel members were Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, 37th chief of staff United States Army; Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force; Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, vice chief of United States Naval Operations; Gen.Craig R. McKinley, chief, National Guard Bureau; Gen. Sir Richard Shirreff, deputy supreme allied commander Europe, knight commander, commander of the Order of the British Empire; Vice Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara, vice commandant of the United States Coast Guard; and Maj. Gen. Darrell L. Moore, director, USMC Reserve Affairs. ED's Deputy Chief of Staff Eric Waldo was a distinguished lecturer speaking on the subject of the Secretary of Education's support for military-connected children.

Regional News

On April 13, Region X staff (Seattle) attended the Military Kids and Family Partnership group meeting in Tacoma, Wash. The group meets monthly to discuss ways in which their agencies can provide outreach to military families and resources. They are presently planning a summit which will focus on the needs of military families. Participants will include counselors, teachers, administrators, and parents.

The Department exhibited at the Veterans Expo, held in Atlanta on April 27. The Regional Office of Veterans Administration in Atlanta working through the Region IV Interagency Forum on Faith-based and Neighborhood Initiatives organized and hosted the event. U. S. Representative Hank Johnson spoke. Other distinguished guests included Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis of DeKalb County Government, and Major General Maria L. Britt, commanding general of the Georgia Army National Guard.

Data on Progress of Military Children Could Lead to More Targeted Services

An increased federal focus on military children may lead to more detailed tracking of how military children fare academically in schools located off base. As part of a joint tour promoting military families, first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, a community college instructor and the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, are calling for more targeted support services for military students and better access to rigorous curricula. The Department of Defense tracks the achievement of students in its 194 schools around the world, but the majority of children of service members and civilian Defense Department employees attend public schools. Yet a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggests it may be hard to identify and serve highly mobile military students. In the study of 118 of the 154 Impact Aid schools with high concentrations of military students, GAO researchers led by George A. Scott, the director of education, workforce, and income security issues for the office, found that fewer than 20 percent of the districts surveyed separately tracked their spending to support military students. None tracked how military students as a group fared at their schools. "The department shares the concern ... that some military children may struggle academically as a result of varied academic standards from state to state and a lack of connection to the school community resulting from their mobility," wrote James H. Shelton III, the U.S. Department of Education's assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement, in responding to the GAO report. "In the next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Education Department has proposed to require schools, districts, and states to report the achievement of military students," Mr. Shelton said. (Read the the GAO report.)

Substance Abuse and Mental Disorders information Now Available for Military Families: Access to Care for Active Duty, National Guard, Reserve, Veterans, Their Families, and Those Close to Them

Information on the nature and scope of substance use and mental disorders among military service members is being offered to military families as a free audio CD or downloadable digital version. It also examines the strength of the system to address these problems and efforts underway to improve the ability to support military service members and their families. The information examines the serious issue of need for active duty, national guard, reserve, veterans, their families, and those close to them by exploring the nature and scope of substance use and mental disorders, the strengths and weakness of the system to address these problems, and the efforts underway to improve our nation's ability to meet its health-care obligations to service members and their families. Specific improvement strategies are highlighted including collaboration and coordination that increases access to care; community-based solutions that foster access to evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery support services, as well as development of the behavioral health workforce to better serve the military and their families. For more information go to and

Children of Military Service Members Resource Guide Now Available Online

In order to assist families and health-care providers address the mental and emotional health needs of military children, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), whose mission is to identify and promote effective instructional material for wounded warriors, families, and health-care providers, has released the Children of Military Service members Resource Guide. Deployment not only affects our military service members individually, but also has a significant effect on their families, especially the children. From toddlers to teenagers, children may face difficult separations, experience intensified emotions, and note parental changes once the deployed family member returns. DCoE is part of the Military Health System, which provides a "continuum of care"—from initial accession to deployment to discharge. DCoE works across the entire continuum of care to promote resilience, rehabilitation and reintegration for warriors, families and veterans with psychological health concerns and traumatic brain injuries. The guide is available at:

Contacts:Carrie Jasper, writer and editor; Charles Boyer, special advisor for military families; Cynthia Hearn Dorfman, advisor; Kathy Facon, Linda Cuffey, Rachel Breslin, Heather Foster, Eric Waldo, Kirsten Webb, contributors.
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Last Modified: 08/09/2011