HARRISBURG, PA — Recruitment and retention in military and emergency responder communities continue to be the focus of conversations facilitated by Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware) and the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
On Tuesday, the committee heard from testifiers representing the Pennsylvania National Guard, the American Red Cross and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Emergency Medical Services.
Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, the deputy adjutant general, explained that PA National Guard members are dedicating more of their time than ever to important missions because local communities are less able to care for themselves, often because of financial limitations. He then noted that we go to war and respond to emergencies with the guard we have at that time, not the one we wish we could have funded and trained. Carrelli stressed the importance of making continual investments in the guard to counteract the members who retire.
Carrelli highlighted the Military Family Educational Program (MFEP), which would be made possible through legislation currently being drafted by Barrar. The program would award educational benefits to the spouse and/or children of a Pennsylvania National Guard member who reenlists for another six years. Many other testifiers also supported the legislation as a way to keep trained and talented personnel, as well as to thank his or her family members for their sacrifices.
In fact, Kathleen Fabrizi, executive director for the Pennsylvania National Guard Associations (PNGAS), highlighted MFEP as the top legislative priority of PNGAS. She also explained that the PA National Guard must recruit more than 2,300 new members in the next year to replace guard members who completed their commitments and/or retired.
Representatives from the American Red Cross and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Emergency Medical Services echoed the need for recruitment and retention support. Dylan Ferguson, director of the bureau, gave his support of the Senate Resolution 6 Commission Report, which focuses on recruitment and retention of firefighters and emergency responders.
A separate hearing about the report was held on Monday with the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee to allow for an in-depth conversation. Testifiers implored the committee to act on the report for the betterment of safety throughout the Commonwealth.
To date, more than 20 bills are being drafted that would put recommendations from the report into practice.
Source: Representative Stephen E. Barrar, 160th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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