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Mullen: Too many spouses kept out of the loop

Typically when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff makes an appearance at family-readiness gatherings, he spends most of his time thanking them for their support and telling them how vital they are to the military's success. And Adm. Mike Mullen did a lot of that in New Orleans this week at the National Guard Family Program Volunteer Workshop.

But he also made some interesting comments about the pre-deployment checklist that servicemembers have to fill out before heading to Iraq or Afghanistan to ensure their lives are in order. Among questions about finances and legal paperwork, many units also ask for permission to contact the servicemember's family throughout the deployment to keep them informed about what's going on with the unit, benefits and entitlements and support resources available to them. A servicemember can check "yes" or "no."

Mullen wants to eliminate that choice. "In my time as chairman, I'm going to make that box go away," he said.

That part about family-readiness being vital to success? Mullen apparently thinks some servicemembers don't quite get it.

"There are just too many spouses whose spouse deploys where that box is checked 'no,'" he said.

The chairman didn't say how he would get rid of the box, only that it "has to be actively pursued from within from the grassroots level up to the commander, so that we can make it go away."That way military officials can close the information gap between families and their units, particularly for Guard and Reserve families who often are far from the support of a military installation.

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