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Spotlight on Sylvia Kidd

President, Board of Governors 1995

Sylvia believes that military families are their own best advocates. She also believes that speaking out about their own issues helps other families. But in order to help other families, they must be educated about the benefits, programs, and challenges that come with the military lifestyle. It was this philosophy that led her to ultimately become President of the National Military Family Association from 1994 to1995. Her philosophy also led her to make a career of ensuring that military families are armed with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful.

Sylvia’s term as Association President came on the heels of the end of the Persian Gulf War. Quality of life issues and concerns about family readiness had come to light and were taking front and center. As a result, she had many opportunities to testify before Congress about medical care, family housing, military children’s education and transition, and the challenges of spousal employment. At the same time, she was serving on the Secretary of Defense’s Science Board for Quality of Life which was looking into the problem of substandard housing. A positive outcome was the recommendation to partner with the private sector to bring military housing up to standard. TRICARE was being developed and the Association found itself opposing the Department of Defense. While the Association failed to convince Congress to put the military under the Federal Employees Health and Benefits Plan, it did manage to make TRICARE a robust program to meet the needs of military families.

Sylvia was able to take advantage of her ability to travel with her husband. On these trips she met with spouse groups to provide them information and to listen to their concerns. The insights that Sylvia gathered on these trips later became the basis for testimony she used to make the case for the Association’s positions.

While serving our Association, Sylvia and several other senior Army spouses developed Army Family Team Building (AFTB). This program teaches dependents to be resilient and self-reliant by introducing them to Army life and leadership through a series of modules. The program had a long birthing process that required much review, course development and the involvement of a number of Army spouses. The resulting AFTB master training course was held the summer of 1995.

So how do the challenges faced by today’s families differ from those in the mid-90s?  “In many ways things have improved dramatically. However, families today are experiencing unprecedented stress with repeated deployments and family separations. The effects of continuous deployment are evident in our children and in the way families interact with each other. After almost ten years of war, the most vulnerable families are having a significant challenge in maintaining emotional balance and family cohesion,” said Sylvia. “Changes are still needed. They may take time and hard work but it is obvious that we can bring them about.”                                                            

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