Chancellor William McRaven
Chancellor William McRaven

William McRaven, chancellor of The University of Texas System, addressed over two hundred participants from 20 states and Japan, Canada, and Estonia at the Third Annual Military Social Work Conference, Strengthening Military Families Through Effective Community Practices, held September 16-18, 2015.

“Conference topics focus on things that are incredibly important, from working with children and families to helping veterans get legal help, to helping military couples manage the integration process back into civilian life. These are all issues that I saw come up time and time again in the men and women in my command,” McRaven said.

Sharing his own experience as a three-star commander, McRaven talked about how and why social workers are important for the military.

“When I was in my three-stars command, there was a woman named Wanda Crawford. Wanda Crawford was our sole social worker for my staff of a couple of thousands,” he recalled. “As I did outreach with people that were departing the command, any soldier, sailor or marine who was leaving, I said, okay, tell me the things that we did well, the things we didn’t do so well, and almost every single time, much to my surprise, they would say, well, if you didn’t have Wanda, I’m not sure I could have made it through the last deployment, if you didn’t have Wanda, I’m not sure my family would have adjusted to my reintegration, if you didn’t have Wanda, I’m not sure I would have been able to do my job. I heard this over and over again (…) and you realize the power of what a social worker can bring to a command, to a person, to a family.”

The Annual Military Social Work Conference brings the latest research and most effective practices to social workers who provide mental health services to military men, women, and their families. It’s one of the few national conferences that bridges the gap between research and practice within the field of military social work. Learn more about the conference.

Before joining The University of Texas System, chancellor McRaven retired as a four-star admiral after 37 years as a Navy SEAL. His last assignment with the Navy was Commander of U.S. Special Operations, during which time he led a force of 69,000 men and women with an annual budget of more than $10 billion. As leader of Special Operations, McRaven was responsible for conducting counter-terrorism operations worldwide as well as building reliable military partners through programs that stressed the rule of law, universal rights, civil liberties and military professionalism. McRaven also is a recognized national authority on U.S. foreign policy and has advised the president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, secretary of homeland security and other U.S. leaders on defense issues.

McRaven’s military legacy is not limited to strategy, warfare and securing federal support. He also spearheaded the creation of the Preservation of the Force & Family initiative, calling it a “moral imperative” to take care of the mental, spiritual and physical well-being of those who serve in the Special Operations Forces, as well as their families. His wife, Georgeann, has dedicated much of her career to playing a leadership role with military families and wounded warriors.

Posted September 29, 2015. Photos by Martin do Nascimento.