April 11, 2011

McChrystal to Lead Effort to Help Troops and Their Families

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who was forced to resign as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan last summer, has been tapped to lead a White House-sponsored effort to aid troops and military families.

McChrystal will lead a three-member advisory board that will work with corporations and foundations to develop community-based efforts to assist service members and their families. The board also will seek to catalyze debate about ways that the private sector and communities can help.

In June, McChrystal was forced to resign after officers on his staff disparaged top civilian officials in the Obama administration. In addition to sparking a political firestorm, the episode provoked concern that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had opened a deep divide between the military, the civilian political leadership and the American public.

In his new role, McChrystal will oversee an effort aimed at mending some of those rifts, in part by easing service members’ transitions back into society.

The initiative, called Joining Forces, will be announced Tuesday by first lady Michelle Obama and will be run through the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a Washington-based defense think tank. McChrystal’s involvement was first reported by the New York Times.

Officials behind the initiative say it grew out of an idea that the private sector wants to reach out to returning troops but has little sense about how to do so.

“I was on a radio show recently, and a caller phoned in to say, ‘I support the troops,’ ” said Nathaniel C. Fick, the chief executive for CNAS. When Fick asked her how she supports them, the caller had no response.

“She asked me for some suggestions, and I didn’t really have any good ideas,” he said.

The program will not receive any federal support and will rely on a consortium of corporations and individual donors.
McChrystal will be joined on the board by Patricia Shinseki, the wife of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. A third member probably will be chosen from the private sector, Fick said.

The effort was spurred in part by a paper in which Nancy Berglass, a fellow at CNAS, pressed communities to do more to welcome back troops.

“Warriors come home to communities, not to federal agencies,” she wrote.