Both active duty troops and veterans undoubtedly have a number of concerns about the future of the Armed Forces. Everything from budget cuts to troop reductions to employment opportunities will likely come into play in the near future, and a group of soldiers recently got the chance to voice their concerns to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, The Associated Press reports.

The soldiers were from 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, one of the most frequently deployed units in the military. They have been sent to war five times over the last 11-plus years, and 84 members have been killed during that span. However, it wasn’t the deployments that were most on their mind, it was the impact that budget cuts and a still-sluggish job market could have.

What does it mean for families?
During the protracted fights in Congress over spending and budget cuts, one of the common refrains among the military community is asking what impact any changes could have on their loved ones. For instance, will civilian spouses of service​members be able to find jobs on bases if there are budget cuts? Additionally, there are concerns over whether there will be changes to everything from medical benefits to schools for their children.

Answers are hard to come by
Although Panetta, who is set to leave his post as Defense Secretary in the near future, sympathizes with the troops’ concerns, there is little he can do to quell their worries. He has been a harsh critic of Congress in recent months as lawmakers continue to hold the threat of sequestration over the head of service​members. As it stands, they need to reach an agreement on spending cuts to avoid automatic $500 billion slashes over the next 10 years.

“You guys go out and you put your lives on the line, you take the worst risk of all – which is that somebody may shoot you and you may die,” Panetta told the crowd, according to the AP. “All we’re asking of our elected leaders is to take a small part of the risk.”

Concern, and with good reason
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that sequestration could hollow out the capabilities of American Forces faster than most people realize. Specifically, he said that such deep budget cuts could limit training and other integral parts of the military.