SALT LAKE CITY — Utah ranks among the top destinations for military families transitioning to a new duty station, a new report indicates.
The U.S. Air Force recently released results from its 2019 Support of Military Family comparative analysis examining the quality of public education, along with professional license portability. The study looks at support for airmen and their families and ways to eliminate challenges that exist for military families moving between duty stations.
Hill Air Force Base near Layton and Roland Wright Air National Guard Base in Salt Lake City were two of only three U.S. Air Force installations to earn top marks in the study. Air Force leaders are expected to use the report information to strengthen military retention, improve quality of life and ease transitions for airmen and their families by having the report inform future mission decisions, a news release stated.
“This is a testament to Utah’s commitment to our military members and their families,” said Gov. Gary Herbert. “Utah strives to ensure military missions are performed successfully and that Utah remains a great place for the Department of Defense to station some of its highest priority units and workload.”
While Hill and Wright were two of three installations nationally to garner top marks in both public education quality and licensure portability, Hill was the lone active-duty installation to receive the ranking, with Wright as the one National Guard facility to achieve high marks, the report stated.
One of the things that Utah has done a very good job of is remove the barriers that state to state transition for the families presents as much as possible, explained Brian Garrett, deputy director of the state Department of Veterans and Military Affairs.
“Our team as a whole here in Utah has been very proactive in trying to create opportunity and take those barriers down so it’s an easier transition for the spouse to bring their license to find a military family-friendly employer and gain employment here,” he said.
Career sustainment for military spouses and education for their children were among the biggest influences on military members’ decisions to continue service, according to the report. The study examined public education based on academic performance, school climate, service offerings, among various factors. The report also looked at current state policies and programs designed to remove barriers to license portability for military spouses.
The Beehive State was one of five states to achieve the green — most-supportive — category for license portability. In 2018, the Utah Legislature passed a measure expanding the out-of-state professional certificates the state recognizes for military spouses.
The legislation enables spouses with licensure from another state to obtain employment in Utah using their existing credentials. The other states to receive top marks in the category were Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota and South Carolina.
Garrett — a military veteran — mentioned an experience of a close friend whose wife was math department chairwoman for one of the high schools in Anchorage, Alaska. Upon moving to Utah for a command assignment at Hill Air Force Base, his wife had to go through the same licensure steps as “a new fresh-faced kid right out of college has to do to become licensed,” despite all her years of teaching and a master’s degree.
“We’ve had a number of success stories since to where it just makes the transition easy, lifts the burden and makes it easier for the spouse to find employment versus the spouse having to go through a whole bunch of bureaucratic hoops to get licensed,” Garrett said.
He noted that in addition to the steps already taken to help military families transition to a new place, local communities can take steps to help families feel welcome in their new environment.
“Make a point of engaging with the family and engaging with the children,” he said. “These kids having to make friends and leave every two to three to four years, it can be rough on them. They make good friends, get into a routine and they don’t want to leave, then they pack up and move to another (duty station).
“Welcome them, involve them in the community and recognize the challenge of packing up, making new relationships and new friends every two years, then sustaining some of those relationships after they leave,” he added. “Anything our community can do to welcome the military families and make them feel a part of the neighborhood quickly is important in that experience.”
He also implored employers to make a point of hiring military family members when they arrive in a new community, if possible.
Meanwhile, a local support group called the study recognition “a compliment to all involved” who help the state attain it.
“We strive for all military personnel stationed in Utah to feel that they and their families are welcome and supported here,” said Tage Flint, president of the Utah Defense Alliance. “Our communities will continue to sustain and support current and future Air Force missions. We will continue to work hard to support our installations and military personnel.”