Saturday, September 26, 2009

Really good article....encouraging for Army families..

FORT HOOD - General officers are trained to draw a red line.

Yet there will be times they will have to compromise.

"But there is one thing I won't compromise on," said Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood. "I refuse to compromise on taking care of the family. That's a red line I won't cross."

Lynch and his wife, Sarah, reflected recently on their tour at Fort Hood in advance of the change of command ceremony Tuesday where he will relinquish command to Maj. Gen. - soon to be Lt. Gen. - Robert Cone.

"When Sarah and I got here 15 months ago we decided we were going to focus on the family," Lynch said. "The environment today is the most difficult I've seen for the Army and it's because of what soldiers do and are trained to do. They fight our nation's wars."

Early in his tenure at Fort Hood, Lynch put a policy in place that sees soldiers home by 6 p.m. to be with family, except for Thursdays.

"We demand that everyone leave work at 3 p.m. on Thursdays for family time," Lynch said. "It's when kids get home from school. And we demand that soldiers only work on the weekend with my personal approval."

Fridays, Lynch said, soldiers have a place to go let their hair down.

"When we got back 15 months ago all the clubs were closed," Lynch said. "Now they are all open and vibrant. If you are at Club Hood at 4:30 p.m. on Fridays you will see the officers of the Corps there having a celebration. It's the celebration of our camaraderie."

The NCOs of the Corps meet at the Phantom Warrior Club. Certain hours at the clubs are planned for family activity. Beef and Burgundy night is Tuesday, Spaghetti night is Thursday and Surf and Turf is on Friday nights.

"We want our families to be able to come at a very reduced rate to enjoy a wonderful meal," Lynch said. "Those are the things you have to put in place to reduce stress."

Lynch said the post also schedules free concerts. All the outdoor pools were opened free of charge. Commissary and PX services were made family friendly. And the pharmacies on post fill 95 percent of their prescriptions in 30 minutes or less.

Lynch said family first is by deeds, not words.

"If you stand up and say, 'I care about the family,' but don't do anything, the youngsters see through that in about 30 seconds."

Resiliency Campus

Lynch often has said the Army has spent too much time fixing soldiers and families that it broke, rather than spending enough time keeping them from breaking.

Lynch set out to reverse the dynamics of that with his Resiliency Campus. It takes up a city block near the old 4th Infantry headquarters. The landscaped grounds have a former chapel and many buildings converted for use in programs that promote physical fitness, spiritual insight and emotional strength.

"We focus on building resiliency so when soldiers deploy they don't come back devastated," Lynch said. "Rather they will come back enriched."

Lynch said the Army had 147 suicides since the first of the year. Fort Hood makes up 10 percent of the Army, but has had only four suicides. Lynch said data on the divorce rate, domestic violence, sexual assault - all indicators of a stressed organization - have gone down at Fort Hood since the emphasis has focused on family and reducing stress.

"When I went to testify before the House Armed Services Committee, I told them it wasn't about suicide prevention, it's about stress reduction," Lynch said.


Lynch said not every soldier who goes into combat comes back with post traumatic stress disorder. It's the same with the family. Not every family is broken as the result of deployment, he said.

Mrs. Lynch said the separation of deployment is stressful.

"But families learn to depend on one another," she said. "We are our own battle buddies together. We are there for each other no matter what."

Lynch said people come up to him at functions and tell him the more he deploys the easier it must get.

"It gets harder," he said. "And it's no easier for a general than it is for a private. There is emotional turmoil in the separation."

Lynch said his father-in-law was a master sergeant in World War II. When soldiers left for war, they were gone until the war was over.

"That could be four or five years," he said. "Now we are gone 12 to 15 months and back for 12 months on what they call dwell time, then gone again for 12 months."

Lynch said communications today is so different. Soldiers can communicate with families by video teleconference and cell calls.


Lynch said what he and his wife will leave at Fort Hood is the people they have touched.

"What I'm hoping is that the soldiers and family members will have seen their lot in life improved," Lynch said. "It's not about how many buildings you erect."

Mrs. Lynch said she hears people at functions thank her husband for the family time he has given them.

Lynch said another part of the legacy is opening the post to the community. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Fort Hood, like all military installations, circled the wagons.

"When we first came here it was behind bunkers. But I assessed it to see if there was a threat - a physical threat - and the answer was no," Lynch said. "So we removed the barricades and opened up the post and I think that has been welcomed by the community."

Future for Fort Hood

Lynch said the post would continue to thrive under his successor, Maj. Gen. Cone.

Lynch said the Cones have followed them into positions on four occasions. He said he believes Cone will continue many of his projects and the post will continue to thrive as in the past.

"We will continue to advocate Fort Hood as a robotics center of excellence," Lynch said.

He said vendors would continue to bring their equipment for soldier testing as a way of preparing certain products for combat.

"The 'Great Place' will only become greater under (Maj.) Gen. Cone."

Asked if there had been anything else he had wanted to do for Fort Hood, Lynch said he had no regrets other than the fact he and his wife are leaving.

"There's nothing I would have done different - nothing I would have worked harder on."

His next post is the U.S. Army Installation Command in Arlington, Va., where he will be responsible for 153 installations.

"At our new posting we will take what we have done at Fort Hood and Fort Stewart - and by we I mean Sarah and myself every step of the way - and apply it to the other installations.

How they met and married

Lynch said he was a young captain at Fort Hood in 1982 with a passion for softball when he met his future bride. He went to register his softball club with the City of Killeen Recreation Department.

"She was director of the department and since her secretary was gone that day she registered the ball club for me," Lynch said.

Lynch said he has a story he tells that when the two met, Sarah pursued him because she had all his contact information on his application form.

Mrs. Lynch's eyes twinkle and she laughs softly when she hears this.

"Now here's the real story," Lynch said. "I really fell in love with Sarah and spent $690 on flowers before she would consent to go out with me. Every time I turned around I sent flowers to her."

Lynch said her father told her, "whatever you do, don't marry a GI"

"That's because he was a master sergeant," Lynch said. "Her mom was in the Army as well in the Women's Army Corps."

Mrs. Lynch said the procession of roses and bouquets had tongues wagging at city hall.

"All the guys I worked with would ask me, 'what is going on, Sarah? We don't send flowers like this.'"

"It was absolutely wonderful. It's nice to be courted like this."

Lynch said it was the best $690 he ever spent. They met in March, she agreed to go out with him July 4, they were engaged in October and had a December wedding at Fort Hood.

"I'm glad to tell you I give all the glory to God and all the thanks to Sarah," Lynch said. "Since I've been commander at Fort Hood, the great things that have happened at the Great Place have been Sarah's ideas. I should put signs up that say 'Sarah's Idea,' or 'Brought to you by Sarah.'"

Mrs. Lynch demurred modestly.

"People come up to me with these ideas and I pass them along to Rick and he gets them done," she said.

Lynch leads by example. He said he and his wife attend the newcomer briefings on Wednesdays.

"I start the session walking down the aisle holding Sarah's hand," Lynch said. "I tell them my most important title is not lieutenant general or commander of Fort Hood. My most important title is Sarah's husband. My second most important title is father of Susan and Lucas.

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