By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Military reservists typically drill two days per month and then have two weeks of active-duty training each year. For many military reservists who have children, however, drilling two days per month presents childcare challenges.
The Army has taken a proactive approach to mitigate the strain. For Army Reservists and Army National Guard members who have children, the Army has initiated a new pilot program that offers free childcare during drill weekends.
Requirements to Participate in the Army Reserve Childcare Program
According to Military.com, this Army Reserve childcare program will be launched in four states that include Florida, New York, Texas and California. The program’s target groups are junior enlisted members and mid-level noncommissioned officers of the Army Reserve.
Requirements for parents to participate in the childcare program during drill weekends include:
- Having a child between the ages of six months to 12 years old
- Being a single parent
- Being in good standing with the unit
Married couples can also participate in the childcare program if the Army reservist’s spouse is also participating in drills or has non-military work obligations on a drill weekend. Drilling Army reservists eligible for the free childcare program should speak with their commanding officers regarding further eligibility requirements and for guidance on how to utilize these childcare options.
The National Guard Will Offer a Similar Childcare Program
Simultaneously, the Army National Guard will also offering free childcare on drill weekends in six states – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia and Washington – as part of another pilot program. Enrollment will be managed through Child Care Aware® of America, which offers similar childcare services to active-duty members in other military branches.
The Benefits of Offering Free Childcare to Reservists and National Guard Servicemembers
Offering free childcare to reservists during drill weekends is a great approach. It lessens the childcare burden on military families, and it enables soldiers to focus on their drill weekend duties with greater peace of mind.
According to Military.com, there are around 118,000 Army National Guard members with children. Around 30,000 of them are single parents, and there are 36,000 children that are in the right age range to quality for this childcare program.
Ultimately, the goal in offering free childcare during drill weekends is to promote soldier retention. In a statement to Military.com, the National Guard Bureau’s manpower and personnel office said that “a lack of weekend drill child care is impacting soldier retention among single soldiers, dual military soldiers, and married soldiers with a spouse who works on the weekend.” If this pilot program proves to be effective in retaining drilling reservists, the Army may wish to expand these benefits to additional states.
The reserves have a crucial role in national defense; their servicemembers undergo training and have other useful qualifications if their units are called upon to handle a national emergency or global conflict. Meeting their childcare needs on drill weekends is a strategy that other branches may benefit from, because this problem of a lack of childcare is not unique to just the Army National Guard and Army Reserves.
To bolster servicemember retention and recruitment, it is essential to implement innovative strategies to foster high morale. Offering childcare to drilling reservists is a good approach.