First lady Jill Biden (left) at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island on Tuesday. (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News-Times)

First lady Jill Biden (left) at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island on Tuesday. (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News-Times)

First lady visits Whidbey to meet with military families

Jill Biden was on a West Coast listening tour of bases to learn of their challenges and obstacles.

OAK HARBOR — During a visit to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Tuesday, first lady Jill Biden asked Oak Harbor military families how the U.S. government can better support them.

It was her second stop on a listening tour of three West Coast military installations this week. On Monday, she visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, and later Tuesday she flew to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California.

“We want to know what challenges you face, what’s getting in your way,” Biden said to an audience of military spouses on Whidbey Island. “And just as importantly, we want to know what’s working at places like Whidbey.”

She arrived at NAS Whidbey just before noon and toured one of the aircraft hangars before going to a conference room to read her remarks.

She got a close look at a U.S. Navy EA-18G “Growler” electronic warfare attack warcraft and talked with Naval personnel.

Among those on hand to greet the first lady was Capt. Matthew Arny, commanding officer of the base.

During her remarks, Biden spoke of her father, who was a Navy signalman during World War II, and said military service was crucial for their family. Her father was able to go to business school on the G.I. Bill and eventually became a bank manager, while his wife stayed home and raised five daughters. “And that was my family’s American Dream,” Biden said.

After her remarks, she met privately with local military families to listen to their concerns, to better understand the obstacles they face and the support they need. Reporters were not allowed to listen during Biden’s time with military families or ask questions.

Biden announced earlier this month that she plans to re-launch the Joining Forces initiative she helped start with former first lady Michelle Obama in 2011.

The initiative’s goal is to work “hand in hand with the public and private sectors to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives,” according to an archived web page from the Obama administration.

Many of the initiative’s early efforts focused on encouraging private companies to hire military veterans. Biden launched the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, an effort to encourage employers to hire more military spouses, in 2011 through Joining Forces.

More than 60,000 military spouses were hired three years after the partnership launched, she reported at the time.

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