By Keith Tidball
Amongst the various strains and strands of stress and anxiety stemming from the violence in Ukraine comes the subtle but growing sense of dread and concern among the families of military service members. Practitioners will no doubt experience more urgent inquiries from stressed and anxious family members as units across the military prepare for the possibility of escalation. This is magnified by an unprecedented media preoccupation with the crisis and a global sense of solidarity for the people of Ukraine (and against the dictatorial actions of the Kremlin). This is very different, and so much simpler for the layperson to understand than the “forever-wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan, which makes it easier for it to be on everyone’s minds and lips.
In fielding these inquiries and expressions of concern, I find, as a former service member, that it is important to remember some very basic facts. First, service members signed up for exactly this. We train to deploy. All of us who wear or wore a uniform and swore an oath recognize that there may come a time when we must step into harm’s way to come to the aid of our allies in the name of liberty and justice for all. This may or may not be one of those times, but the fact that service members may have to deploy is not new. Second, the threat is not new. I received recognition from the Pentagon, as did thousands of my brothers and sisters in arms for our involvement in “winning” the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The current resurgence of those old alliances represents a kind of return and revisiting of threat doctrine that was commonplace before September 11th, 2001. Third, the role of family readiness in the Ukraine context is not new. Military families have rare and important responsibilities and burdens, all of which relate to a service member’s readiness to perform their duty with proficiency, strength, and honor.
Those of us working to support military family readiness must redouble our efforts to promote military family readiness and resilience and to augment Total Force Fitness among service members in light of the possibility of escalation in Ukraine and surrounding countries. Finally, the role that the learning network called OneOp plays is not changed or new in the Ukraine context. We continue to provide best practices and evidence-based resources and support to practitioners who work with military families. We as members of the Cooperative Extension System continue to endeavor to be a “force-multiplier” in the Department of Defense’s efforts to enhance the readiness and resilience of military families through a range of capacity-building efforts. We will do this with all of our abilities, in the Ukraine context and any current or future engagement of our military families in the United States. We stand with Ukraine, with our allies, and for the cause of liberty and justice for all.
Keith Tidball is a Cornell University Senior Extension Associate and serves as the Principal Investigator for the Community Capacity Building concentration area.