In almost nine years living in the back yard of Fort Hood, Texas, it has become apparent to me that the business of war is not family friendly. It just isn't, has never been and won't ever be. It serves families by protecting them, but those engaged in the business of war have always struggled to actually have one. The higher up on the ladder you are the easier it is, but if you're one of the "grunts" it's a hard row to hoe.
According to the Killeen Daily Heald, General Cone, current III Corps Commander, is continuing an initiative put in place by his predecessor, General Lynch, called "Family First." It requires that soldiers be home by 6 p.m. on workdays except Thursday when they get off at 3, and no work on weekends. The tension in households around the greater Fort Hood area is tangibly lower with moms and dads home with families...until they deploy. Then the old sense of abandonment sets in again, the haunting feeling among spouses that they live with a partner who has a sanctioned mistress about which they can do very little.
In the article, however, General Cone referenced something very important. I quote the article in today's edition of the paper: "...holistic care of [families] and their soldiers is 'exactly what needs to be done.'" Holistic care will eventually filter up to the philosophy of military action in the life of a nation. How do you take care of people you are training to put their lives on the line for us? We can and ought to do whatever we can to help our soldiers be fit mentally, physically, morally and spiritually, (and I applaud the Family First concept on these grounds) because they tend to come home healthier than when they are distracted, sick and feeling beaten down. But there is ultimately a limit on what care the army is willing to take of families and still do its work as the military, Family First program notwithstanding. Perhaps the most significant initiative is one to decentralize authority. It sounds counter-intuitive for the military to decentralize authority, but soldiers who can make responsible and meaningful decisions at their levels, and who then have the authority to carry those decisions out are, according to numerous studies of effectiveness in the workplace, happier and more motivated to do well than those whose jobs are seen as arbitrary and meaningless. Ironically, according to General Cone (and my own observations from soldiers who have returned) soldiers tend to be given more discretionary authority in theater than at home. He is pushing to change that.
Obviously, Family First is not without its limits, and rightly so. No one should protect our soldiers from every danger or they would not be soldiers. Likewise, the Holy Spirit does not protect us from all temptation, or we would not be believers. Calculated risk is an inherent part of making responsible and meaningful decisions. Developing our moral and intellectual strength to be able to make those decisions well is not only part of psychological development, but spiritual development as well. God made us in God's own image and likeness, and when we use the gifts that God has given us and the mental capacity God has instilled in us to make honest, meaningful and responsible decisions that work for peace and the good of our neighbors then we have been, in a very small way, a little bit like God.