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Some of the Special Forces personnel battling the paucity of child care:

Editor’s note: Following this “CBS Mornings” investigation, Army Secretary Christine Wermuth announced on October 10 that “we now have a new Child Development Center for our 7th Special Forces Group families at Camp Bull Simmons in FY25.” (CDC) plans to make.”


The United States Army 7th Special Forces Group takes on some of the most challenging missions overseas. But for more than a decade, these families say they are grappling with a bigger challenge closer to home – safe and accessible child care.

Based in the Florida Panhandle, Colonel Kevin Trujillo, who leads the 7th Group, told CBS News that 60% of his soldiers live in Crestview, where real estate and rents are cheap. Soldiers train at Camp Bull Simmons, 20 miles south of Crestview. Unlike most Army bases that have on-site child care, the 7th Special Forces Group Designated Child Development Center is 20 miles from their training camp at Eglin Air Force Base.

“The number one issue when I talk to service members and their families is child care,” Trujillo told CBS News senior investigative correspondent Katherine Herridge, who led the four-month investigation. “It is not a viable option to drive for more than an hour a day to child care and then go home and repeat that process.

Chelsea, who asked us not to use her last name for security reasons, took us around Crestview and described her deep disappointment over the hours-long trip to babysitting.

“Wasted time. Minutes in the day that can really be spent living your life,” Chelsea said.

In both special forces at the time, Chelsea and her husband juggled three hours each day to care for the child.

With heavy traffic on Route 85 and roadblocks at the base gates, Chelsea was always running late, which she said made her feel like she was frustrating a lot of people.

“You feel like, am I failing my people as a squad leader at the time? Am I giving them hardship while trying to take care of my family? Because they’re both your family. They are just different families,” she said.


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Molly Tobin faced other child care challenges with her daughter, Olivia, married to a Special Forces commander as a civilian.

“When we moved here in May last year, she was on a 17 waiting list when we moved into our house here,” Tobin said. “Seventeen Waiting List. I received an email saying, ‘We have an alternative care option for you.’ And I checked it, and it’s an hour and 10 minutes from my house.”

Now as a family advocate, Tubin shares the community’s concerns with base commanders. Tobin told CBS that there are “countless” special forces soldiers like Chelsea.

According to Defense Department data, more than 11,000 children are waiting for child care provided by the military.

The 7th Special Forces Group told CBS News that it has about 400 children waiting.

Dr. Tracy Beagan is a Captain in the United States Army and the unit’s psychologist. Beagan said that not having quality child care can have lasting effects.

“We see that children who do not have access to quality child care and educational opportunities face difficulties throughout their lives to include depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, attachment issues,” she said.

Beagan emphasized the lack of childcare and lost income are, for stay-at-home parents, stressors affecting preparedness and morale.

“I have noticed that 20 to 30 percent of my patients have spouses who have moved back home especially because of child care issues and difficulty with finances related to not being able to work and have a second income.. . It’s a really big problem across the DoD. And I think it’s huge here at Camp Bull Simmons,” Beagan said.

Air Force 7th Special Forces Group provides child care as Camp Bull Simmons is within the boundaries of Eglin. According to the Air Force, it has not built a facility at the Army base for security reasons as it falls within a test range.

But internal military records reviewed by CBS News show the Air Force has already made changes to “remove all risk” from the area.

“How can this be a safety issue when you have a shop at the gas station, you have a subway here and a church,” Herridge asked.

“Those are tough questions that family members ask me,” Trujillo said, if they have a site for temporary trailers next to the base chapel through approval.

Trujillo said not taking care of children could affect the overall preparedness of a soldier and special forces missions.

“Yeah, that’s why their mind isn’t focused on the mission. And they’re not operating at an optimal level. If they’re worried about concerns, whether it’s family or finances,” he said.

In 2015, Chelsea hit their breaking point and left the special forces to look after their two boys.

“Was it difficult to walk away from your military career?” Herridge asked.

“Very. I miss it so much. The group’s motto is ‘Family Business.’ They have ‘La Familia’ on everything. And yet the family is being left behind. What we’re showing and pictured is And there’s a disconnect as far as child care is concerned,” Chelsea said.

In a statement to CBS News, the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force said they are working together over the summer to identify short-term options and a long-term fix. They have agreed on a final location for a new child development centre. Families told CBS News that it should be on their grounds like other services. Specifications on the location and how many years it will take are expected later this month.

You can read the full statement from Secretary Wermuth and Secretary Kendall here:

“Over the summer, the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force and their staff work together on near- and long-term solutions to meet the childcare needs of soldiers and airmen in the area north of Eglin.

In the near term, the two services developed the following collaborative action plans to expand the available network of childcare: first, hiring a child and youth outreach specialist dedicated to the 7th SFG, to provide communication for childcare services, including fee-assistance and to improve coordination. Subsidies readily available to eligible families for off-base childcare facilities; To explore commercial childcare provider options for additional child care facilities in the Crestview and Navarre area next year, and finally, to implement a DoD pilot to increase eligible in-home child care providers.

Secretary Wermuth and Secretary Kendall have agreed a final location for the construction of a new Military Child Development Center to support families in the Crestview area that will be announced later this month and will be built in the coming years. In the lead-up to the creation of this CDC, both services will continue to review the needs of families to ensure adequate childcare capacity.”

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