Cantwell: Fort Lewis Program Can to Be a Model for How Military Sends Soldiers to War

In Letters to First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of Army Pete Geren, Cantwell Touts Deployment Fairs as New Way to Support Troops, Families

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sent letters to Secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, and First Lady Michelle Obama urging the U.S. Army to incorporate elements of the new Fort Lewis Deployment Day Fair program on a national scale.  During the Memorial Day recess, Cantwell attended the Deployment Day Fair at Fort Lewis. This new, unique program provides soldiers and families with resources and information on housing, finances, legal affairs, educational opportunities, emotional counseling, and other quality-of-life issues that come to the fore when troops leave home. 


“I believe Fort Lewis’ Deployment Fairs have the potential to be a model for how the military sends soldiers to war, and looks after the families those soldiers leave behind,” Cantwell said today. “We owe our service members deploying to Iraq, Afghanistan and other dangerous assignments overseas, and their families, all the information and support they need to get through these difficult months of separation.”


In her letter to the First Lady, Cantwell wrote, “The Army should be quick to adopt ideas that work, especially when they benefit our military families who are sacrificing so much.” Cantwell noted that she urged base commanders to put the support information online “so that families could gain quick access to information, as needed, to help them manage these painful separations.”


Fort Lewis, one of Army’s largest and most modern bases, is headquarters of the I Corps and home to more than 25,000 soldiers and 29,000 family members. Some 18,000 soldiers will be deploying from Fort Lewis for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan between now and the end of the year.


The Fort Lewis’ Deployment Fair includes both traditional classroom training and an exhibit fair set up much like a trade show, with exhibits staffed by experts who can answer questions and provide guidance. A key innovation of the Fort Lewis program is providing help and information before troops deploy. Previous programs generally focused on returning troops.


Cantwell wrote to Mrs. Obama because of the First Lady’s focus on meeting the needs of military families at a time when the nation is involved in two foreign wars. She invited Mrs. Obama to visit Fort Lewis and learn more about the Deployment Day Fair. 


Cantwell’s letters to Secretary Geren and First Lady Michelle Obama are attached.



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