Blog | September 17, 2019

10 Years of Strengthening America

Mission: Readiness celebrates its 10th Anniversary

Our History

In 2009, a small group of retired admirals and generals, including two former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, became very concerned about future military readiness. The threat was a Department of Defense estimate that more than 70 percent of young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are unable to serve in the military, primarily because they are too poorly educated, too overweight, or have a record of crime or drug abuse.

Military Ineligibility Graphic

The retired admirals and generals began rallying fellow retired military leaders to address this threat by calling for smart investments in America’s children. They understood that such investments can help ensure that our nation’s youth are ready to succeed academically, stay physically fit, and abide by the law. That way, they can graduate from high school with many options, including a career in the military if they choose to pursue one.

The national security organization Mission: Readiness was officially launched in November 2009 and our membership has grown to over 750 retired admirals and generals in all 50 states.

Mission: Readiness 2009 Launch Event
Mission: Readiness released its first national report, ‘Ready, Willing, and Unable to Serve,’ at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on November 5, 2009

Our Impact

Since its inception in 2009, Mission: Readiness has focused on achieving policy change that strengthens the next generation. Our members champion research-based policy solutions that help ensure kids stay in school, stay fit, and stay out of trouble so they are eligible for military service or any other career path.

  • School Nutrition: Mission: Readiness helped make healthy school foods a reality for 30 million students. Bringing attention to the threat that obesity poses to the U.S. military, our members helped secure the passage of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, bipartisan legislation that directed that school nutrition guidelines be updated to reflect the latest science. Mission: Readiness received the inaugural Jean Mayer Prize from Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy for “creating a healthier food environment for children across America.”
Admiral Loy eating lunch with students
Admiral (Ret.) James Loy, the U.S. Coast Guard’s 23rd Commandant, had lunch with elementary students in New London, Connecticut
  • Physical Education in Schools: Mission: Readiness has been a leader in protecting physical education (PE) programs in several states. For example, more youth are getting daily exercise in California, Florida, Illinois, and Tennessee thanks to our members’ advocacy for PE in schools.
Mission: Readiness California physical activity event at Franklin Elementary School
Rear Admiral (Ret.) James Rodman led an exercise with students at a San Diego elementary school
  • Early Care and Education: Since 2009, our members have been actively engaged with policymakers at both the state and federal levels to expand access to high-quality child care and pre-K to ensure children show up to kindergarten ready to learn.
MG Darren Owen and BG Joe Ramirez reading with kids
Major General (Ret.) Darren Owen and Brigadier General (Ret.) Joe Ramirez, Commandant of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, read to children in College Station, Texas
  • K-12 Education: Mission: Readiness supported states’ adoption of high academic standards and aligned assessments by educating state policymakers about the importance of rigorous standards for ensuring that young people graduate from high school prepared for college, careers, and the military for those who choose to serve.

  • Youth Tobacco Use: Mission: Readiness members in several states supported “Tobacco 21” legislation to raise the minimum age to legally purchase tobacco products to 21 to improve youth health and enhance military readiness. “Tobacco 21” legislation was signed into law in Illinois after years of effort from our Illinois members.

IL MR Cullerton
Mission: Readiness Illinois members met with Senate President John Cullerton to thank him for his leadership on Tobacco 21 legislation that will help ensure young Illinoisans who want to join the military are healthy enough to do so.
  • Physical Activity in Communities: Mission: Readiness worked to improve walking and biking opportunities in California, Colorado, and Minnesota. Since 2014, our members helped win nearly $1 million in funding for safe walking and biking routes near schools.

Mission: Readiness video to promote Safe Routes to School programs:

How did we accomplish these victories?

  • Held in-person meetings with more than 250 top federal policymakers, participated in 20 policymaker briefings, and met with hundreds of key state policymakers.
Rear Admiral Bob Besal with Speaker Paul Ryan
Mission: Readiness member Rear Admiral (Ret.) Bob Besal shared his perspective on military recruitment challenges with then-House Speaker Paul Ryan.
  • Sent more than 60 letters to key federal and state decision makers signed by hundreds of retired admirals and generals.

  • Provided oral or written testimony to key decision makers on more than 30 occasions.

Retired Major General Earl Adams testifies in support of prek funding
Major General (Ret.) Earl Adams testified before a Maine Legislature committee in support of pre-K expansion in the state budget.
  • Held over 50 press events featuring retired admirals and generals.

  • Released seven major national reports and more than 30 state reports.

  • Generated nearly 5,000 media hits that have reached a total of more than 350 million people through national media outlets such as the New York Times, Politico, and Fox News, and numerous local media outlets in states across the country.

Retired Brigadier Generals Jack Hammond and Gary Pappas were interviewed on New England Cable News about our Massachusetts report on child care and military readiness (June 6, 2019; interview starts at 0:57 of video).

(Header photo at top of page: Major General (Ret.) Bill Libby reads to children at a Maine preschool.)


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